Local News

300 gallons of mash seized from Warren Co. still

Posted December 30, 2008
Updated March 9, 2009

— Warren County deputies and Alcohol Law Enforcement agents seized at least 300 gallons of mash Tuesday and smashed the still that made it.

Authorities said they had the site, in a wooded area near Culpepper Road in the town of Manson, under surveillance for two weeks.

Warren County authorities raid illegal still Warren County authorities raid illegal still

The still's alleged operator, Dennis Johnson, 49, 656 Burchette Road, Manson, has been charged twice within the past 13 months – Sept. 15, 2007 and June 11 – with misdemeanor unlawful manufacturing of alcoholic beverages. Those cases are pending.

Johnson now faces a third charge, which is a felony. His whereabouts, however, were unknown Tuesday afternoon.

Deputies and ALE agents destroyed the still, as well as seven barrels of mash, described by authorities as a sweet beer that eventually gets heated and processed into moonshine, or corn liquor.

Investigators said they are trying to determine how many customers Johnson might have had.


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  • CJjunkie Jan 1, 2009

    This is just another instance of the government hitting up the little man, why, because he didn't pay the state their due and he forgot to grease the local wheels. Give me a break, is this not the land of the free? Where is our freedom then, we can't even make our own booze because the state didn't get their cut!

  • Tarheel born Dec 31, 2008

    Is this the same Sheriff whose daughter was driving drunk, driving on the wrong side of a 4 lane highway, cussing out deputies, throwing her political "weight" around and generally made a mockery of law enforcement UNTIL the D.A., SBI and others got involved? Just asking, that's all.....

  • 2headstrong Dec 31, 2008

    Funny this comes up today. I was just watching a show last night on the History Channel about Rumrunners, Moonshiners and Bootleggers. They told exactly how to make the stills, and one of the men being interviewed rattled off a recipe for the mash.

    I agree that wasting taxpayer money for two weeks of watching this still was disgraceful. We need law enforcement money and manpower spent more wisely than this. I think if I lived in that county, I'd be asking for an accounting of officer time. Who knows how many other low-priority tasks payroll is being wasted on?

  • tiredofgovtwaste Dec 31, 2008

    the man was just trying to make a living. can't get help from DSS or the state because he is here legallly and has a right to be but because of that he has to resort to some type of work to feed his family.

  • TheDude abides... Dec 31, 2008

    Amyrn - That stuff that you saw them pouring out wasnt the liquor, it was the mash (see article heading). The mash is the "wine" or "beer" that is put into the still and the alcohol is extracted from it, the same way you would purify water. So the finished product isnt nasty looking at all. Mash usually includes, in the case of moonshine, cracked corn, water, yeast and lots of sugar. It is mixed together in a barrel and set aside for a few weeks to ferment.

  • Life-goes-on. Dec 31, 2008

    In his haste to make some new years cheer, he forgot to pay the locals to leave him alone. You'd think after a time or two of being arrested he'd know the rules........

    And just for the record Cupcake4-Ever, you cannot distill liquor in any quantity for any purpose in the United States without a license from the state.

  • amyrn Dec 31, 2008

    Did you see the story on tv? The stuff they were pouring out was downright nasty looking! Looked like frothy dish water. I have had moonshine. Someone made round candy chocolate like the kind you make with rum (this thing won't let me say the word for the round candy) with it one Christmas. I ate one of them and it felt like my heart was going a hundred miles a minute and that it was going to pop out of my chest. No more for me!

  • charlesboyer Dec 31, 2008

    Folks, keep in mind that the real reason that bootleg liquor operations are hunted down is because of taxes. They can claim safety and whatnot, but if home-made liquor was legal there would be plenty of safely operating and producing distillation equipment for sale that no one would bother with anything else.

    What makes it even more perplexing is that individuals can make a couple of hundred gallons of beer or wine every year and that's completely legal. I brew my own beer, and my friends agree with me that my stuff is better than what can be bought because it is fresher and doesn't have chemicals added to it. That said, we hardly ever buy beer at the store any more.

  • sunneyone Dec 31, 2008

    Some race car driver had to get special permission to make a still, apparently, you can't even make them any more. He gave it as a gift to a sheik overseas.

    It's a wonder the still in the article wasn't booby trapped.

  • TheDude abides... Dec 31, 2008

    BULLDOZER - U R correct. That's called a bonded still. A century ago they were fairly common. One person in the community would have a legal still and sell it after they paid the taxes. Containers had to have a tax stamp on it however. The whiskey was absolutely the same.