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Make Mine Minnesota Moonshine

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Lew Fisher, Buddy and some MN 13 Moonshine.JPG Louie Fisher and a pooch with some hooch.

6 p.m. Aug. 27----

I have sailed down the Mississippi River in a pontoon from Alton, Ill. to New Orleans. And I hang glided over Illinois farmland. I danced a merengue in a dark shack outside of Santo Domingo, D.R. and traveled to Tokyo to watch the Cubs open a season.
But I never heard Louie Fisher tell me how to make "Minnesota 13" moonshine.
With his French Poodle Buddy sitting in his lap.
And a jug of moonshine on a table.
That was the scene as the night wound down at Fisher's Club in Avon, Mn., not far from the mighty Mississippi that shoots through St. Cloud. Louie, 80, had taken a tumble earlier in the day, but his compatriots at the club brought him over to participate in the festive evening. His left leg had a huge gash but his memory was as sharp as ever.......

"A guy named Warner Davis was cooking this stuff up until he died 10 years ago," Louie said as he looked at the clear bottle. "I'm gonna' give that bottle to you. [Louie does not make moonshine, but he does make 50 to 75 gallons of wine a year.] The wine is legal. It is illegal to give it away. And it is supposed to be consumed on the premises."
Louie said Warner had a home on nearby Pelican Lake and they would cook up the stuff together. Pay attention:

"It's really pretty simple," Louie said. "You take four bushels of corn and 100 pounds of sugar. You take 10 pounds of baker's yeast. Mix the sugar, yeast and water so it makes the mash where you slush it around. It fermented within a day. If you want it to go faster you add a little luke warm water. You have to be careful. You'll kill the yeast if you get too much heat on it. You let it sit for a week. The still is what makes it from a mash into alcohol.
"That was good sippin' stuff."

The history of "Minnesota 13" goes back to 1932, near the end of Prohibition and the same year that former major league baseball player George Fisher opened his club. Up through 1975 Louie sold the stuff out of the back of Lou Fisher's Service Station & Sporting Goods in downtown St. Cloud. "I was a half block from the court house and a half block from the fire department," he said. "I bought it from a guy who was making it in Ferryville, Minnesota. I made sure I covered my tracks. I sold it to the president of one bank in town, four police officers and three guys from the sherriff's department."
I don't drink much alcohol besides beer and tequila. The "Minnesota 13" moonshine tasted like a sweet tequila. The moonshine gets its name from a local seed corn variety. Louie recommended to drink the stuff with a sweet companion like 7 Up. Or in my case, Mountain Dew.
"If you take a good wiff of it it will burn your nose," he said with a playful smile Louie then poured a bit of the moonshine on a table. He pulled out a match and lit it on fire. A blue flame warmed the cool summer night.
Buddy was nonplussed, as if he had seen it all before.
Louie said the hooch was cheap to make, recalling how sugar cost 6 cents a pound in the early 1930s. "You'd go to a grocery store in Avon---at that time maybe 120 people---and wonder why people were buying 9 pounds of sugar a month. That's how they caught a lot of 'em. The stills were made of copper in those days.The "Minnesota 13" moonshine we were drinking was made in a fine stainless steel still.
Say that three times fast after three shots of moonshine.
Louie even atttributed the birth of the NASCAR racing industry to moonshine.
"The guys who were running moonshine in the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee had to have a car that was faster than the feds cars," he reported. "These moonshiners would get together on a Saturday afternoon to see who had the fastest car. Pretty soon they built a track out in the fields."
For more revved up information on Fisher's Club, visit their website at www.fishersclubcom.

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Lewie is married to my sister, Liz! I have enjoyed his moonshine for many years. Enjoyed the article so much. Thank you, he is a dear in-law!

Lewie gave Wink & me some moonshine several years ago, but it's too strong for me. I'll give it up, but I won't give up true friends like Liz & Lewie.

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on August 27, 2008 5:58 PM.

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