Sunday, April 13, 2014

Does it take a moonshiner to catch a moonshiner?

The man opens a large briefcase size case and, with a smile, brings out an unlabeled bottle which he puts on the table.

The case also contains several shot glasses, and he picks up three with a practiced swoop.

Are you ready to try it?, he asks.

Homemade schnaps is his pride. He is also a German customs officer, whose job is chasing moonshiners. We were a little surprised to hear that illicit production of 80 plus proof spirits seems to be rather common in this country. This website states that about one quarter of alcohol consumed in Europe is in the "informal sector", with poisonous brews having made headlines and caused several deaths in the Czech Republic last year.

According to the customs officer, German citizens should not buy "large" stills on the internet. A visit by customs officials is guaranteed after such an acquisition, he said.

Our source present at the small tasting event did not ask what "large" means, and besides this chance encounter with a bright young man, we know of no other stories that support the old saying "it takes on to catch one".

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