Home brewer ran 'sly grogging' business: judge

An 80 year-old Hastings pensioner who illegally distilled and sold spirits from his garage at home had been running an old-fashioned sly grogging business, Judge Lindsay Moore said today.

Edwin Lowry Wilson admitted six charges including keeping and displaying liquor for sale and two of selling liquor without a licence. He was remanded on bail for sentencing on August 25.

Hastings District Court was told Wilson used the proceeds from the sale of whisky and other spirits from his garage at home to cover his brewing costs and to help pay for the restoration of a Model A Ford car.

Prosecutor Nigel Wolland said a plainclothes policewoman went to the home of Wilson, whose "opening hours" were 10am to 2pm and from 4 to 8pm, on April 21 and paid $20 for a 740mm bottle of spirits labelled Midon.

Two days later in a controlled purchase operation, police used 23 and 16-year-old volunteers to buy another bottle for $20. Wilson told them the spirits were 40 percent proof.

In June a search warrant was executed and Wilson admitted he had been brewing alcohol for 20 years.

On a rear wall of his shed was a sign saying "No book-ups -- don't ask" and on a shelf they found 12 bottles of assorted spirits labelled gin, vodka, Kahlua, Jim Beam and whisky. Ten one-litre bottles labelled Jim Beam were in a cupboard plus another five bottles of whisky.

On a shelf police found 11 partly filled one-litre bottles of alcohol and five 23-litres containers. Four were full and in the process of distillation.

Brewing and distilling equipment was found elsewhere in the garage.

Mr Wolland said Wilson told police he made a brew once a week or fortnight and drank two glasses of whisky a night to help him sleep.

Defence counsel Cliff Church said Wilson's wife died several years ago after he had nursed her through a long illness and he bought a Model A Ford to restore as a hobby. The illegal liquor and the car restoration were closely allied, with both carried out in the same shed.

Wilson began selling bottles for $20 each to offset brewing costs and to pay for the car's restoration, although he denied selling to anybody under age.

"This was not a sophisticated operation and he had not intended to sell it for profit," said Mr Church.

But Judge Moore was quick to disagree.

"It cost him $4 to $7 a bottle to make and he's flogging it off at $20."

Wilson, who has a hearing disability, was told by Judge Moore that there was an old-fashioned name for his operation, namely "sly grogging".

It had been an offence since before Wilson was born and the defendant had been filling empty bottles of well-known brands with his own spirits.

"It was a better brew," replied Wilson.




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