So I'm doing what people do on New Years Eve and Day -- watch marathons -- and I come across a show both awesome and odd at the same time. It's called 'Moonshiners' and it airs on The Discovery Channel.
It centers on those who brew their shine - often in the woods near their homes using camouflaged equipment — and the local authorities who try to keep them honest. According to the network, viewers will witness practices rarely seen on television including the sacred rite of passage for a moonshiner — firing up the still for the first time. This is where it gets tricky. "Moonshiners" includes actual western Virginia state ABC agents and while I thought that, in and of itself was quite odd, it turns out that the plot is thickening a bit.
The Associated Press reports that the program misleads viewers into thinking the state is tolerating illegal booze manufacturing and that it wouldn't have participated if they knew how the episodes would turn out. Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control spokeswoman Kathleen Shaw told the AP that viewers have asked why the state is allowing a crime to take place?
Here's the rub: Shaw said the show is a dramatization, and no illegal liquor is actually being produced. "If illegal activity was actually taking place, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement would have taken action," Shaw wrote. But it certainly appears differently on the show. The department issued a statement saying it would not have participated in the filming had they known how the show would've turned out. "Virginia ABC agreed to participate in an informative piece that documents the history of moonshine and moonshine investigations in Virginia. Virginia ABC did not participate nor was aware of the false depiction of moonshine manufacturing, distribution and/or transportation in the filming, and would not have participated in the 'documentary' had it known of this portrayal," the statement said.
The origin of moonshining in the United States has been linked with the Whiskey Rebellion during the 1790's. Under President George Washington, a Federal tax was imposed on whiskey, which farmers strongly resented — leading to a backlash and rise in illegal distillers. Even the origins of NASCAR have been linked back to the skilled driving of moonshiners eluding law enforcement.