Distilling the home brewers dilemma….

Governor Bob Riley

Back last May, Governor Robert Bentley signed into law the bill that turned thousands of Alabamians from criminals to connoisseurs.  With the passage of HB9, The Alabama Homebrew Bill, Alabamians now have the legal ability to brew small batches of beer in their homes from raw ingredients.  I’ve done this, and it was great fun!  (I lived in Tennessee… where it was legal at the time).  It’s pretty fun trying to turn raw materials into a finished mug of perfectly brewed beer.

Now, with home brewing legal in Alabama, one must ask why it isn’t legal for home distilling?

The simple answer is that the distillation of spirits is controlled exclusively at the federal level, and all home distillery activities are strictly illegal.  After all, we can’t have a moonshine still in every backyard… can we?

Why is distilling linked to home brewing?  Because there is only one step extra added to distilling a spirit than brewing a beer.  Some may believe that it is that specific step that makes distilled liquor contain more alcohol than beer.  And you’d be right.  Sort of.

Distillation does not create alcohol.  Period.  The chemistry behind distillation dictates that it can not!  Distilling happens at high temperatures, well over 170F, is simply too high for yeast to create alcohol.  So distillation does not make alcohol at all.

Spirits are made from distilling a fermented mash.  And making a mash is no different in distilling than it is in making beer.  In fact, you could use a mash from beer making to distill a beer spirit.  It wouldn’t be very good, but you could do it.

So all distilling involves is using heat and cooling to concentrate the alcohol.  But distilling isn’t the only way to do it.  Beer makers use a different method.  Ever had an Ice Beer?  It’s beer that has been concentrated by freezing.  Alcohol doesn’t freeze as quickly as ice, so if you freeze a beer and remove the ice, you have a more concentrated alcohol content in the beer.  But freezing beer isn’t illegal.  So why is distillation?

Because, Prohibition!  Because, Moonshiners!  Because, Drunks!

Let’s be honest.  Because, TAXES!  The same arguments that Alabama Home Brewers fought getting Home Brewing legal, that home brewing will lead to drunkards, loss of tax revenue, and general unlawfulness, are the same ones (only on a national level) that home distillers face.  But just like in home brewing, they just don’t make sense.

Not the Home Brewers Beer

Let’s handle the drunkards issue first.  Just like home brewers, home distillers aren’t cooking up their elixirs for getting drunk.  Being drunk doesn’t allow you to enjoy the flavors, some quite subtle, in your brew or spirit.  So home brewers and home distillers aren’t looking for a quick drunk without paying tax on it.  Because, well… there is nothing quick or cheap about the hobby.  To make five gallons of beer or spirits, typically the size a home brewer can deal with, you’re spending at least double… if not triple… the cost of a cheap beer in the same quantity or a cheap spirit in the same quantity.  And yet, after spending the money you have nothing to drink.  You’ve wurt to make, and mash to ferment.  And a second fermentation if you’re making beer.  Staying with beer, there is bottling and bottle conditioning.  All this takes weeks and weeks.  Distillers may be a shade faster.  They stop at the first fermentation and move on to the distillation.  But sometimes, it must be distilled twice.  And that’s assuming that you’re not aging the distillation any.  Because if you are… you’re talking years.  In either case it is far cheaper and faster to fetch a case of Natty Lite or Burton’s Vodka if all you’re looking for is a quick, cheap drunk.

As to loss of taxes, it’s rubbish.  Home Brewers/Distillers would be paying taxes on all the ingredients that they use in making their liquid.  The only place that the state/feds lose taxes is on the sale of the brew/spirit.  And that’s BS.  One of the rules of all home brewers/distillers is that they can’t sell their brew/spirit.  So there isn’t any loss there.  But what’s the point of being a home brewer/distiller if you can’t prove you’re better than the big boys?  So the home boys compare to the big boys.  So they have to buy the big boy’s products anyways.  And, taxes!  I’ve been to a home brewer’s tasting.  They are all the same.  The brewer pulls out his brew and a selection of the brews he thinks he’s competing with.  Flights are poured.  Beer is tasted.  Everyone applauds the brewmaster for being better than the big boys.  And the brewmaster knows how truthful they were by how eagerly they grab the proffered four packs.  (BTW, the more eager the more truthful.)

Now we come to the rub.  General unlawfulness is harder to argue with distilling than brewing.  Because of the double fermentation process brewers prefer, the cost of setting up for mass quantities of production is prohibited.  Add to it the bottling expense, so it gets even worse.  Beer by the bottle is just cost prohibited.  Plus, the big boys do thing a bit differently, and the difference is not appreciated among the Natty Lite crowd.  So selling large quantities of home brew is hard because there is no demand.

Spirits are different.  Clearly there is a demand, otherwise there wouldn’t be moonshiners.  Preparing a mash isn’t that difficult, and distilling it isn’t either.  Moonshine isn’t aged, so it isn’t that hard to make.  Additionally, it’s barely cut and the bitting taste is desired so its rarely filtered.  The result is that what a hobby distiller would consider a early first step, a moonshiner considers a finished product.  (This isn’t a slam on moonshine.  I’ve tasted some mighty fine moonshine that was obviously crafted with care.  I didn’t pay for it, nor did I think to check on the bona fides of the person offering me a taste.)

So it is possible a moonshiner would try to hide his moonshining under the guise of hobby distilling.  However there are still drawbacks.  Five gallons isn’t exactly a windfall, so the moonshiner is more likely to continue his dead of night distillation in the woods than small batches in his garage.  Also, who cares if the moonshiner hides in the garage?  If the making of it isn’t illegal, the moonshiners is more likely to take greater care in making their product.  I’m serious, have you thought about how clean these backwoods setups truly are?  After all, it’s the sale that’s illegal, not the making (if home distilling was legalized) so catch them there.  Let the sales be the target, since the making is now safer anyway.  And the legalization will allow thousands of hobby distillers create a whole new economy.

Yes, I said economy.  The (not so) recent explosion of  great craft beers is directly linked to the healthy home brew crew.  No big boy brewmaster will take a risk on a new recipe.  But a small to medium brewer will see that boysenberry is selling like crazy at the home brew store and will take the chance.  (I’ve never had a boysenberry flavored beer.  Someone make some, and I will.  Maybe.  I don’t like boysenberry.)  In Tennessee, there is a growing micro-distillary industry.  That micro-distillary industry will only grow faster, sooner, with hobby distillers taking chances the commercial places can’t.  Additionally, the micro-distillary industry is suffering from a lack of experienced distillers.  Bringing back Home Distillation will allow a new crop of future distillers to grow up outside of the big boys influence.

Who knows, in a few years following legalized home distillery, boysenberry infused vodka may be the new, hot cocktail mixer.  Then again, maybe not.

 –I must stress that my discussion of how to make both beer and spirits is intentionally rudimentary.  I actually know a good bit more, but didn’t find the details relevant to the overall discussion of legalizing home distilled spirits.  For example, I alluded to the fact that the big boys don’t bottle condition without explaining what bottle conditioning actually is.  Why home brewers bottle conditions and why the big boys don’t isn’t really relevant here.  But I just know some militant (tongue firmly implanted in check) home brewer would complain that I didn’t explain something correctly.– 

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Two Happy Man-trees

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April 4, 2014 · 11:11 pm

How much does it cost to educate the public servants?

The City of Chicago is paying a heathy fee for not being able to learn from past mistakes.  In the past ten years, the city has paid over half a billion dollars to settle police misconduct cases.  Yet in the past ten years, there has been little to nothing done about the root causes of the problem.  2013 was a particularly bad year for Chicago, they paid over $87 million but had only budgets $27 million. Why a city would budget to cover a problem that shouldn’t exist if they held their officers to the same standard that McDonalds holds their cashers to is beyond me.  It didn’t take long for the city to bust the budget.  They settled a single case for $22.5 million in January of 2013.  In August, another single case was settled for $12 million.

Chicago isn’t the only city with significant bills for police misconduct.  Cities around the nation are faced with higher and higher settlements and awards for the police abusing their authority.  And there is no excuse for it.  Police have qualified immunity, which means they can not be sued for doing their job and doing it correctly.  If they follow the law and their own policies, they would be immune from being sued.  That they are getting sued as often as they are means that judges across the country are agreeing that police are not following the law and are not following their own policies.   Municipalities are rapidly learning to settle cases once the veil of qualified immunity is pierced, juries are quite unforgiving once they are convinced that the police did wrong.  

What is sad is that the common public hold the belief that it is a few bad cops that are making the whole force look bad.  But when these so called good cops stand around and do nothing when the bad cops act up, they aren’t good cops.  Then again, perhaps police don’t call out other police action because of the very real retaliation their brother in blue will perform against them. But that retaliatory attitude is tacitly supported by the system police have built for themselves, and it is quite a system.  

Thanks to police unions and lobbyist, the laws and contracts of the police force is a powerful thing.  In the millions Chicago paid out, most of the officers who performed the misconducts didn’t get any punishment.  So much so, that not included in that $500 Million payout is the paid leave the officers got.  Once the complaint was filed, the police department does its own internal investigation.  It’s the police policing the police, and it doesn’t work.  And often leads to weird situations such as both defending and going after the officer at the same time.

A few things need to change, or you are going to see this payout to private citizens continue.  Police must stop policing themselves.  An independent, outside agency should handle all the complaints that come in against officers and departments.  Chiefs must be able to fire problem officers without interference from the union.  And cops need to stop covering cops who do bad things.  Until those three things are fixed, all the training in the world won’t stop the money bleeding out of departments around the country.


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Resisting Arrest?

I hope someone out there can answer this question.

How does one get arrested for just resisting arrest?  Not for resisting arrest along with something else.  Just resisting arrest.  How is that possible?

In the Alabama Code, here is the law:

Section 13A-10-41 – Resisting arrest.

(a) A person commits the crime of resisting arrest if he intentionally prevents or attempts to prevent a peace officer from affecting a lawful arrest of himself or of another person.

(b) Resisting arrest is a Class B misdemeanor.


Now, there would seem to me, who is not a lawyer, that there are several important aspects to this law.  First is intentionally.  You must want to resist the arrest.  However, that’s not how it is used in reality.  If you so much as pull away from an officer as they try and grab you, then you can be charged with resisting arrest.  Even if the pulling away was completely instinctual.

Second, it is who is being arrested.  On that point, I get at least one case where you could get charged with just resisting arrest, and that’s if you interfere with the arrest of someone else.  But that’s not really the situation I’m talking about.  I’m talking about a situation where there is just you and an officer, and you get charged with resisting arrest.

The last part is the lawful arrest.  For an arrest to be lawful, the officer must have probable cause a crime has been committed.  So how can you be arrested for the crime of resisting arrest if there is no probable cause of a crime?  It’s a catch-22.  Actually, it means the officer didn’t have probable cause, tried to arrest you.  But without probable cause, it wasn’t a lawful arrest.  Now, they may have had probable cause for something else, I suppose, but then they should have arrested you for that, and not for resisting arrest.  Or at least, in addition to resisting arrest.

Contempt of Cop

I suspect that most of the “just” Resisting Arrest charges are actually contempt of cop arrests.  There is no law for contempt of cop.  Instead, the concept is that if you give a police officer a hard time, he will arrest you just because you are being difficult.  There are several charges that often get thrown into the “Contempt of Cop” category, including resisting arrest.  Others are obstruction of justice and refusing a lawful order.  Those are harder to use in Alabama, since the only obstruction of justice law I could find in the Alabama code is Obstruction of Justice Using a False Identity and Obedience To Police Officers and Firemen.  In the Obstruction law, it only applies if you falsely identify yourself to an officer.  In the Obedience law, it is limited to traffic direction.

Investigative Detention

I can imagine you might get charged with resisting arrest if you are held on an investigative detention.  This seams a bit of a stretch to me, since the level of cause is less for an investigative detention than it is for a full arrest.  An investigative detention, or Terry Stop, is where the officer has a reasonable suspicion you’ve committed a crime and is detaining you for further investigation.  Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than Probable Cause.  Perhaps case law has extended resisting arrest to include Terry Stops as well.


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Falkville Police Make Their Own Prom Promise To Students


This seems to be a great idea. Protect the kids, get them home safe. And in a small town like Falkville, maybe that will be exactly what happens. But the idea of the police picking up “kids in trouble” like this is opening up a legal can of worms. The kids in some sort of trouble (either drunk themselves or abandoned or trapped by drunk kids) who turn to the police instead of their parents for help. Wonder if these officers made it clear that anything these kids say to them may be used against them later. That while they might take them home that night (just to avoid the issues of interrogating young people without their parents) there is a very real possibility they will find themselves in the middle of an investigation later. I hope that isn’t what happens, I hope the police are good on their word. But they are under absolutely no legal requirement to do the right thing and just take the kids home and forget about it.

Originally posted on WHNT.com:

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FALKVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – An unusual prom promise at one Morgan County school. The Prom Promise, of course, is where high school students pledge to be alcohol and drug free on prom night. This year, Falkville Police are also making a promise to high school students. It’s a pledge to get them all home safely.

It’s supposed to be a sobering scene, firefighters working to free injured teenagers from a crash involving a drunk driver. Minutes later, the teens assemble at their school to learn one of the passengers in the car did not survive. With prom night approaching, officials plead with the students not to make this mistake.

Falkville Police Chief Chris Free tells the student, “We know you’re kids and we know you’re going to go out and have fun. We just want you to make good decision in doing so.”

The students sign their…

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It’s not your right, it’s your obligation. So shut the ever loving hell up.

I bet you view yourself as a good person.  In truth, you probably are a good person.  Maybe even a great person.  Honest, usually trustworthy, mostly moral.  And why not, society works because most of us just really aren’t that bad.

But being a good person is not the same thing as being a not guilty person.  And in this day and age, being not guilty is the most important thing you can be.

Notice I didn’t say innocent.  Innocent people are often guilty.  And not innocent people are often not guilty.  There is no correlation between  innocence and guilt in a court of law.

And when it comes to staying not guilty, there is one thing you can do that is far more likely to increase your chance of a either never facing a jury or, if you do, hearing two words instead of one after a trial.

And that’s to shut the ever loving hell up.  

I’m completely serious.  I don’t care how sweet your tongue is with the opposite sex, it is worthless when it comes to the police.  I don’t care how clever you are, you aren’t clever enough when it comes to the police.  You are an amateur, they are the professionals, and you will loose if you open your mouth.  So don’t.  Shut it.

Well, not completely.  According to the Supreme Court of the United States, you must express that you are exercising your right to remain silent.  It is a  right you must assert, and you don’t want to sit still and just be silent with the police.  That might end you up in jail. So shut the hell up, right after you repeatedly tell the police you’re shutting the hell up.

The other part, is do it nicely.  So while you want to shut the hell up, you need to say it in very polite and non-threatening tones along the lines of “I don’t answer questions from the police without my lawyer.”  And keep saying it, as your only answer to any question.

Will this method of dealing with the police keep you from getting arrested?  No, it will not.  But, if you get arrested while exerting your rights, you were going to get arrested anyway.  Remember, we started this conversation on the assumption that you are a good person, so you didn’t just get stopped for running a red light with a dead body in your back seat with a quarter ton of pot next to it.  You’re getting arrested at that point, and nothing about you shutting up will prevent that.

But if you HAVEN’T done anything wrong, if you shut up you may still get arrested.  But, the likelihood of you getting arrested is no higher than if you talk.  To stop and talk to you, all an officer must have is reasonable articulated suspicion (RAS).  RAS is easy to arrive at, so basically an officer can stop and ask you questions pretty much any time they like.  Even if they don’t have RAS, they can still ask you questions.  The difference between having RAS and not having RAS is if you’re free to go.

Without RAS, the police can not detain you.  If you are asked a question by the police and instead of directly answering the question, you ask if you’re being detained and they say you are not, then you can walk away.  Don’t.  Ask if you are free to go.  If they say you are not free to go, then you need to shut the hell up.  Don’t argue.  Don’t try to be a lawyer, which you’re not (and neither am I) and prove they are doing something wrong on the street.  Just shut up.  Don’t say anything but “I’ve been advised by my lawyer to not answer police questions without him” and “Am I free to go.”

If the officer tells you you are free to go, then go.  Get the heck out of there and don’t look back.  If he tells you you are not free to go, ignores the questions or in any way attempts to continue the conversation assume you are being detained and say nothing.  (Nothing equals asserting that you’re not saying anything)  There is only one other thing that you should say to a police officer other than “am I free to go” and “I’m asserting my 5th Amendment rights.”  And that’s “I do not consent to a search.”

Again, none of this is going to keep you from getting arrested or being searched.  If you are arrest, do not resist in any way.  So much as accidentally touching a cop can become resisting arrest or assault.  Do nothing, follow every order (lawful or not).  Just submit.  You can’t win in a physical confrontation with the police.  YOU CAN NOT BLOCK THE POLICE.

Instead, you are doing your best to set things up for the only place you CAN beat the police, and that’s in court.  If they overstep their legal bounds, your lawyer will be working to get things dismissed and suppressed.  Lawyers can’t do that if you spill all the beans and gladly give the police the right to search you, your car, and your house.  So help your lawyer out, and shut the hell up.

One thing I purposely avoid in this article is the issue of Identification.  Rules and laws on who has to have identification and who must present identification vary from state to state… and very greatly.  In Alabama, once you’re detained you generally have to provide your name, address and birthday to the police. They can ask you where you are going or what your intentions are, and you have to answer.  You can be vague, and I’d be more and more vague.  “Walking, driving, out and about” is what you’re doing.  Follow up questions are “On the advise of my lawyer, I’m taking the 5th.”  

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Make Your Own Clothes Tazer-Proof



Originally posted on DUMMR.com:

Taser-s HackaDay posted the simple instructions below. They seem  to be a lot more complicated in practice than in theory.

Make a cut at the bottom of the lining of your jacket or any clothes. Put a strip of iron-on no-sew hem tape, top with a strip of carbon tape. Press with an iron. Convenient to operate if cut small pieces of carbon tape and spread it inside his jacket, like a mosaic. Place the strips of carbon tape as close as possible to each other, to avoid gaps. Step by step, fill the entire area of your jacket with the carbon tape.

HackaDay’s post HERE

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