Home of Oklahoma's oldest (and most storied) brew: Choc Beer

OKLAHOMAíS HISTORY AS A DRY state may date to statehood in 1907, but the history of one Oklahoma beer is equally long. Choc beer is believed to be the product Choctaws teaching immigrant Italians to brew beer (hence the name), but no one knows for certain. What everyone does agree upon is that from 1925 to 1981, choc beer was faithfully, enthusiastically, and illegally served at Peteís Place in Krebs, save for an occasionally hiatus triggered by an untimely arrest or prison stay.

"With Choc Beer, it's a romantic thing. There's a story to tell."
--Joe Prichard, Pete's Place

Indeed credit for choc beer surviving Prohibition probably goes to Pete Prichard, the onetime Italian miner who ventured into the restaurant business after breaking his leg in a mining accident. In Peteís day, the beer was brewed in the Prichard basement, and when it ran out, Pete purchased batches from his neighboring homebrewers. He never added a bar to the family restaurant, preferring to serve choc beer right along with his lamb fries, heaping plates of ravioli, and veal parmesan. When a front-page story in the Daily Oklahoman in 1981 exposed what had been a widely known practice, Pete finally turned off the tap. His recipe for choc beer, however, endured. And this past November, his grandson Joe Prichard resurrected it when Peteís Place added a microbrewery next to its kitchen.

Brewed from water, yeast, barley, and hops (Peteís recipe) or barley, hops, tobacco, fish berries, and a little alcohol (according to others), choc beer is an unfiltered ale that is both sweeter and fruitier than traditional beer. "Itís kind of a beer of its own," said Peteís Place brewmaster Michael Lalli. "Itís cloudy, itís malty, and it doesnít look much like beer."

The restaurantís brewmaster brews two other beers--a lighter Minerís Light and a Brewerís Choice (the recipe changes at the whim of the brewmaster)--but Choc Beer remains by far the best seller (some 70 percent of beer sales). "With choc beer, itís a romantic thing," said Joe Prichard. "Thereís a story to tell. Half of it is the product itself, and the other half is the story thatís attached to it...(choc beer) is unusual. Itís different. Itís basically the same thing that is driving the whole microbrewery revolution in the country. The whole microbrewery thing is that (the beer) is more flavorful, and itís different than what you can get at a convenience store."

Peteís Place draws 75 percent of its business from out-of-town; it is located at the intersection of SH-270 and SH-31, just east off US-69 in Krebs, (918) 423-2042. Peteís brewmaster Michael Lalli.
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