Why Is It Illegal to Make Your Own Liquor (Moonshine) but Not Your Own Beer or Wine?

It's perfectly legal to brew your own beer or make your own wine at home, as millions of people do. So why is it illegal to make your own distilled spirits at home?

The reason is simple - - - taxes. Taxes on beer and wine are low compared to the very high taxes imposed on whiskey, vodka, gin, and all other distilled spirits. Over half the retail price of a bottle of distilled spirits consists of taxes.

Congress was pressured by home brewers and wine makers into letting them make their own alcoholic beverages at home in limited quantities. But the government doesn't want to lose any of the many billions of dollars it receives each and every year from the very high taxes on distilled spirits.

Government officials argue that moonshine is a serious health hazard because many illegal producers use vehicle radiators in the process, which can potentially cause lead poisoning. However, safe home stills could easily be sold to solve that problem. The real issue isn't the health risk of contaminated alcohol, but the potential for enormous revenue loss from the production, even in small quantities, of otherwise very heavily taxed liquor.


  • Tsai, Michelle. Why is moonshine against the law? Slate website, October 18, 2007.