Sugar Moon? A few facts every Coloradan should know about our moonshine history
Being the Red Blooded American I consider myself to be, of course I am fascinated with moonshine and all the history that follows it. Distillation of alcohol can be traced back to Ancient Rome, the Romans methods frequently caused blindness, insanity and death. Lead based production systems proved not too effective in creating a smooth sipping whiskey. Fast forward a couple thousand years to our forefathers. George Washington loved his liquor so much he built his own distillery in Mount Vernon, his mash recipe was one of the most popular in the nation.
A couple hundred years later in an act of idiocy, on December 1917, the U.S. Senate proposes the 18th Amendment. On January 16, 1920 the law went into effect making the production, sale and transportation of alcohol within the United States of America illegal. None of this is information that most everyone doesn't already know especially with the popularity of moonshine these days. What most don't know is hundreds of Americans across Western states such as Montana, Wyoming and Colorado began making liquor in their basements and barns in order to quench that government induced thirst. Montana officials stated that prohibition was simply ignored and towns such as Greatfalls and Lewistown had stills in almost every home. Wyoming was quoted as the wettest state in the West. Colorado was overflowing with bootleggers since it actually went dry in 1916. Colorado moonshine was named "Sugar Moon" as one of the most popular recipes of the era was using plain sugar, natural spring water and baker's yeast. A cheaper method was also to substitute sugar with sugar beets from the plentiful sugar beet farms around Colorado. Most stills were small and for personal use, that being said great care was taken in making a quality liquor because it was not going in the trunk of a speedy car and sold in a speak easy, this ‘shine was going in your belly. After distillation the liquor was infused with fruits, juices and sugars specific to the individuals liking. Many "Law abiding " Denver residence tried to justify having a still by saying they used it for medicinal reasons, the alcohol was used to make medicine safe for their children to use.
Everyone knows moonshine got its name in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, for crying out loud they even got their own TV show! Out here in the West MOST moonshiners weren't being run down by the Law or getting shaken down by the Mob. That's not to say Colorado didn't have its problems with organized crime. During the 1930s wars over bootlegging turf broke out all over Colorado. One family in particular, Carlino brothers, Pete and Sam, were extremely ruthless and killed every member of a rival bootlegging gang, the Danna family, in order to take control of Pueblo. Gang boss Joe Roma controlled liquor in Denver and was said to have been partners with the Carlinos. Eventually the Carlinos and Roma were murdered by rivals and the power in Denver and Pueblo kept shifting from one family to another. Most shiners out here were everyday Americans who believed in a hard day's work for a day's pay and their God given right to have a drink at the end of that day.
Prohibition ended in 1933 and proved to be just a colossal failure at stopping anyone from making liquor or drinking it, on the other hand it made moonshine what it is today. Prohibition did bring about some good, With the closing of saloons which didn't allow woman and opened Speakeasies which did, thus ending a 300 plus year sausage party. We also have NASCAR thanks to bootleggers and their souped up Flathead V8s. Long after an act as UnAmerican as calling soccer football, moonshine is just as popular as ever and is as American as apple pie.
By the way, you have to tried our Apple Pie 'Shine