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Moonshine makers set up shop in Ga. city hall

Associated Press Modified: November 17, 2012 at 9:32 pm •  Published: November 17, 2012
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There are a handful of other moonshine distilleries in Southern states such as North Carolina, but officials from state and national groups say they aren't aware of any operating in a city hall.

"That's a new one for me," said Gregory Minchak, a spokesman for the National League of Cities.

J. Katie McConnell, senior associate for economic development at the League of Cities, has been studying the craft beer industry in recent months, and how small breweries and distilleries have sprung up and expanded in many communities. In Washington, D.C., for instance, the city's first gin distillery in more than a century opened this year, she said.

Wood has been planning the distillery for about five years. As she searched for a site, she and city officials began to realize that city hall would be an ideal spot, Dawsonville Mayor W. James Grogan said. The idea was that the distillery would tie into the city's history since it would be right next-door to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame Museum, Grogan said.

The distillery has reached several key milestones this year.

Last week, the distillery was delivering the second batch of moonshine it's made to its distributor, which has orders from liquor stores and other businesses around the state. Georgia law prohibits the distillery from selling its liquor at the site, but allows a distributor to ship it to stores with a liquor license, where it can be sold legally.

Wood recently got approval from state officials to offer small samples for tourists to taste.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd of Milledgeville, who introduced that bill during the most recent session, said Thursday he believes there will be more legislation during the upcoming session that would allow the Dawsonville distillery and others in the state to sell a single bottle of moonshine to tourists who want to take one home.

The samples will be offered on a counter made from wood cut by one of the distillery's employees, Bob Suchke of Dahlonega. Tin covering the front of the tasting counter came from an old barn, Wood said.

Locally made and locally grown products are a key aspect of the business, she said. A batch of apples fermenting last week came from the north Georgia town of Ellijay, about 30 miles away, she said.

The local movement has been a successful one in north Georgia, where several vineyards dot the mountain landscape and offer tastings of wines made with locally grown grapes. In Blue Ridge, at least one apple orchard brews and bottles its own apple and peach ciders.

Corn used by the distillery is also grown locally, and the distillery sticks to authentic recipes and doesn't use any sugar, Wood said.

"This ain't sugar liquor," she said, "this is the real deal."