Daniel Maner enjoyed a bit of fame when he joined the reality television show “Moonshiners,” which brought the spotlight on the shadowy world of moonshining. The Discovery Channel program offers an intimate look into the clandestine moonshining activities including the moonshiners’ daily lives as they looked for the perfect spot in the woods, evaded the authorities, and tackled the difficulties they encountered when they sold their finished product. Since Daniel’s debut in the show, he was part and parcel of the drama, adventure, and nostalgia-tinged journey with the other master distillers, who held viewers’ attention, making the series one of the most-watched on the cable channel.
Brief background on moonshine and moonshining
The alcoholic beverage known as moonshine gained a level of notoriety during the Prohibition era of the US 1930s due to its illegal production, which had long been an intriguing and contentious aspect of American history. Some people believed that the exotic taste and quality of each bottle of moonshine eclipsed whatever was being offered even in the bars and pubs, when available.
Moonshine and its Origins
In today’s world, “moonshine” often caused confusion for those who weren’t familiar with its history. It was originally associated with the word “moonshining” coined by the British, which meant activities done under the cover of the moonlight. Traditionally, moonshine is referred to as a strong alcoholic beverage, often described as aged whiskey manufactured and sold illegally. It wasn’t that way originally, as there were some grain-producing farmers back in the early 1800s who were freely distilling alcoholic beverages before the government started regulating them. These farmers protested, which led to an era known as the Whiskey Rebellion. However, it didn’t mean that one couldn’t find a bottle labeled “moonshine” in a liquor store today, made by licensed distiller, and which could be distributed legally around the country.
Moonshining restrictions and imposed taxes
Sometime in the 16th century, it was said that the early settlers from Europe, mostly Scottish-Irish immigrants, brought their distilling methods with them to (then) the colonies. They shared it with the community, and moonshining became an art in places around the Appalachian Mountains. When the country became involved in wars, particularly in the Civil War, the US government imposed taxes on the alcohol industry to help offset the expenses it incurred. They passed a law called the 1862 Revenue Act, which required distillers to get a license to produce alcoholic beverages, including both homebrewed spirits and imported ones. The restrictions encouraged most of the distillers to resort to moonshining, in which the alcoholic beverages were produced at night, under the moonlight, in some secret place away from the towns to evade the authorities. Most moonshiners believed that the restrictions placed on moonshiners boiled down to taxes, and not really to the safety of how they were produced.
All about “Moonshiners,” the reality TV show
When teasers of the debut season of “Moonshiners” were released by Discovery Channel, it easily gained interest from the viewing public. Anything that would depict clandestine operations – including the actual moonshining activities – was enough to lure people to watch each episode of the TV series.
The premise, inspiration, and premiere of “Moonshiners”
“Moonshiners” featured a group of people who practiced the art of making illegal alcoholic beverages. It focused largely on the Appalachian region of the US including North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. The reality TV series was highly inspired by a documentary on the life of an legendary American moonshiner named Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton. He was quite adept at producing moonshine, as he came from a long line of moonshiners, and many current moonshiners such as Daniel Maner had great respect for the man. However, one of Popcorn’s self-destructive traits was shooting his mouth off about his colorful activities to anyone who would to listen, which led to his arrest at 72 years old. He was out on bail, waiting for his trial to start, when he decided to take his own life instead of facing the possibility that he might spend the remaining years of his life in federal prison.
Moonshining has been a deeply ingrained custom, but in the past decade, its practice has slowly deteriorated, and some have even called it a lost art, that is until the TV show started airing, which premiered on 6 December 2011. Each episode transported viewers on a fascinating adventure, as the moonshiners engaged in a variety of activities, including establishing their own homemade stills, selling moonshine, and dodging police officers tracking them.
Controversy about its authenticity
“Moonshiners” was categorized as a reality TV show, and when supposed illegal activities were filmed and aired, viewers wondered why there were no arrests made, as the moonshiners in the show never covered their faces. During its first season alone, it generated about three million viewers, and it wasn’t a surprise that allegations of the show being scripted surfaced online; fans talked about its authenticity or lack thereof in social media. Magilla Entertainment, the production company behind it, was quite smart in including in its debut season the Virginia ABC Bureau law enforcement agency. It kind of gave the audience a sense of cat and mouse vibe that the agents were out there looking for the moonshiners.
However, it turned out that the agents never had any direct interactions with the moonshiners in the show. The agency felt that they had been used to provide credibility to the series. When they were interviewed about it, they said that they never thought the producers would pass off the scenes that showed illegal activities as real to the audience. They demanded that the cable streaming giant, Discovery Channel, provide a disclaimer whenever they aired an episode, that it was all for dramatization purposes, but they never did. The stars of the show said that an arrest could only be made if caught in the act of manufacturing moonshine. The show might be under the genre of reality TV, but it wasn’t airing live or in real-time and so the chance of any of the cast members such as Daniel Maner being arrested was quite slim. It was revealed later on that most of the cast members were actually licensed distillers, but producers still insisted that the show was as real as it could get.
Get to know Daniel Maner
Moonshiner Daniel Maner grew up in Tennessee, where he learned the art of moonshining that was passed down from generation to generation in his family. From his brief biography on Discovery Channel’s official website, he was described as an expert welder and a custom 4×4 builder. He was the go-to guy of other respected moonshiners in the TV series such as Mark Ramsey and Eric “Digger” Manes, whenever they needed another partner to fulfill huge orders of moonshine. Daniel was generally acknowledged as a likable person with a calm and trustworthy character. It was also reported that his day job was as an expert mechanic in a company called Blalock Companies, located in Sevierville, Tennessee,.
Little information about his personal life was shared with the public, and according to some social media accounts that his family supposedly uses, Daniel has a wife named Kimberly Patrick, an Admissions Co-ordinator at Smokey Mountain Post-Acute and Rehabilitation Center, whom he married on 13 June 1999; they’d met when they both attended Sevier County High School. During their 23rd wedding anniversary, Kimberly uploaded a wedding photo on her Facebook account and captioned it, ‘We fight like cats and dogs but at the end of the day, there is nobody I would rather spend my life with.’ They have two children, Dalton, a high school senior, and Skyler, an eighth-grader.
Daniel Maner’s interesting moments in “Moonshiners”
By the seventh season of “Moonshiners,” the producers came up with a disclaimer during the opening credits of an episode: ‘Anyone making moonshine risks life-threatening injury or time in prison. Do not attempt any of this at home.’ Daniel knew the risks, but chose to continue manufacturing moonshine. He said that while he said goodbye to the illegal practice for quite some time, it never left his blood.
#Christmas #Jam just got bigger!!! @Celebrity #Moonshiners Mike Cockrell, Daniel Maner, Big Chuck, Crazy Chuck, and Red Dog will be joining us for fun! December 22 6pm!!!! #elevatedmtn pic.twitter.com/IYc2dPaQtM
— Elevated Mountain (@ElevatedMtn) December 16, 2018
First appearance in the TV series
Daniel Maner was introduced in “Moonshiners” during the 11th episode of the seventh season of the series aired in 2017. Mike Cockrell, one of the regular moonshiners and Daniel’s old buddy, was looking for another pair of hands with experience to help him make moonshine to achieve his goal that season. He already had 185 gallons in his stash but he needed 415 gallons more. While Daniel had security concerns, he agreed to help his friend as the lure to go back to his moonshining roots was too good to pass up, even if at that time, he wouldn’t be getting a 50-50 deal. He hadn’t made moonshine for quite some time and was a bit rusty, but Mike was confident that Daniel would get back to his old self in no time.
An accident occurred in his first episode
The risk associated with moonshining didn’t always come from being discovered by law enforcement agents. While in the process of making Apple Blueberry moonshine near the secluded wooded area somewhere on the Tennessee border, one of the unsecured caps of the distilling pot blew off. They were stunned since it initially ran pretty well, and they were just waiting for the process to finish. It turned out they’d made a critical error during the set-up, and both realized how fortunate they were as no one was hurt or killed. It could have been much worse with fireballs exploding, if it happened at a much later stage when there would be too much steam and pressure inside the pots. Since it was during the early part of the run, the incident only left them with a dented pot and the loss of just a few gallons of liquor. During the confessional interview, Mike said he was curious as to what Daniel felt during the incident, and if it discouraged him from moonshining. He never expected that they would come across some hair-raising incident during Daniel’s “Welcome Back Training Day.”
Brought up memories during his first run
Notwithstanding the little accident that Daniel experienced on his first day, he admitted that he was happy just being there. He said that he was out of the game for quite a long while and just the smell of the mash brought back old memories of him being in the woods running here and there to make moonshine. He said, ‘It’s a wonderful feeling and I’m just glad to be in it.’ Mike felt the same thing and said he was just grateful that he had Daniel with him because it would take too much of his time if he was alone doing it. The old buddies were happily making moonshine while catching up with what happened to their individual lives over the years. They eventually produced 10 gallons of moonshine that night despite the mishap.
Received help from people he least expected to come to his aid
Daniel had an accident in the ninth season too, and he ended up with back pain that hampered his ability to earn money. He couldn’t properly walk, and even moving caused him pain, so he didn’t have any choice but to stay at home and recuperate. At that time, he was visited by Mark and Digger, who brought four boxes of moonshine and gave them to him as a gift. They said that they knew that things would be hard for him financially, so the liquor could help him until he was back on his feet again. They said that he could do whatever he wanted with it, and Daniel said that it could fetch him around $1,200. Daniel was overwhelmed by the help, especially since it came from people he least expected.
Apparently, his old buddy Mike, to whom he provided assistance in producing moonshine in the seventh season, never showed up or even reached out to him. In fact, Mike dropped him like a hot potato and looked for another partner. Mark said, ‘Mike isn’t from around here. He doesn’t know our ways. We’re mountain people, it’s what we do.’ Digger told Daniel to just pay it forward when someone in the future needed help as well. Fans collectively agreed based on social media comments, that it was smart and sensitive of the two older guys to bring free liquor instead of giving Daniel money, because they knew it would have hurt his pride.
Partnered with Mark and Digger
Mike Cockrell approached him again, and asked for his help in producing moonshine upon receiving a huge batch of orders, and even offered to split the profit in three. Daniel declined, saying that there was still a bit of animosity between them although, he still agreed to meet Mike for old-time’s sake. It was fortunate that Mark and Digger reached out to him if he wanted a spot in their team, because at that time, even if Daniel worked as a mechanic and fabricator, business was kind of slow. The two older men trusted Daniel as he was quite upfront and fair with his moonshine dealings, and wanted him to be part of their group. Fans of “Moonshiners” were happy that Daniel found solid guys to work with, because most of them felt that his old buddy Mike was selfish and arrogant. Mark and Digger were happy too that they had Daniel on their side, as they felt more at ease in producing hundreds of gallons of moonshine as he knew what he was doing in the woods.
Appeared in “Moonshiners: Master Distiller”
Discovery Channel executives and producers liked what Daniel Maner contributed to the table, and included him in the show’s spin-off series entitled “Moonshiners: Master Distiller,” which premiered in July 2019. This series centers around the art and science of legally distilling spirits rather than the illegal moonshining activities portrayed in the main series. The cast members, who were all licensed distillers, provided viewers with an in-depth look into the world of legal craft distilling and the expertise required to create high-quality spirits. The core concept of the show revolves around a thrilling competition format, in which highly skilled distillers proudly exhibit their abilities and extensive knowledge.
In the 10th episode of the third season, Daniel competed with moonshiners Josh Owens and Mike Cockrell. In this thrilling episode, the panel of judges comprised of the old timers in the TV series was joined by esteemed guest judge Danielle Parton. Together, they presided over a high-stakes competition in which the three contestants courageously put their cherished family recipes on the line. These multi-generational moonshine legacies faced the ultimate challenge as they strive to endure the test of time and emerge victorious. Fans of Daniel rejoiced that night as he was declared the winner of that family recipe competition.
2023 update on what’s going on with Daniel Maner
After making his debut in “Moonshiners” in 2018, Daniel stayed with the reality TV series up to its latest season, which started airing in November 2022, and ended in April 2023. In 2022, Discovery Channel produced another spin-off series called “Master Distiller Tournament of Champions,” and included Daniel as one of the competitors. This time, viewers get to experience the pinnacle of moonshining excellence, as the contestants would earn the coveted opportunity to go head-to-head with the formidable Mark, Digger or Tim, who are considered the titans in the moonshining industry.