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CHOC BEER

Despite what many assume, "choc beer" is an abbreviated term for Choctaw or Choctaw Indian beer, not chocolate-flavored beer. This should not imply that all Choctaws made and drank beer, or that all choc beer was made by Choctaw Indians. Choc beer, whether it was legal or illegal, was a favorite among many southeastern Oklahomans for decades, especially the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth-century immigrant coal miners. The concoction could be brewed in a basement, a garage, a barn, or a kitchen.

In Indian Territory to sell or posses alcohol was a federal offense. When Oklahoma gained statehood in 1907, it entered the Union as a prohibition state and remained "dry" until 1933, when voters approved a referendum legalizing 3.2 percent beer. In 1959 a majority of residents voted for bottled hard liquor sales. Prior to and after these "wet" victories, there were a few small-town restaurants in southeastern Oklahoma that secretly sold choc beer to known and trusted customers. By the latter part of the twentieth century Pete's Place, a Kreb's restaurant, legally sold choc beer as a specialty item.

The origin of choc beer is not known, but like all beers it is a fermentation of malted barley and hops. In 1894 a report to the U.S. Congress claimed that Choctaw beer was a "compound of barley, hops, tobacco, fishberries, and a small amount of alcohol." Choc beer is "home brew" flavored to suit the taste of the maker, and unlike commercial beer, it is probable that each brewing varies from others. At the beginning of the twenty-first century it was still illegal to brew it without a license, but its production remained a popular pastime for some Oklahomans. One 1971 southeastern Oklahoma recipe listed these ingredients: barley, hops, sugar, and yeast, with rice, oats, mash, apples, peaches, or raisins optional.

In the mid-1900s, when questioned about his choc beer, an Oklahoman said, "It won't hurt nobody cause fruit's good for ya, but it'll make you drunker than a fool. Don't put snuff in it, that would kill a dog! As good as it is, every body should have two or three glasses a day. My family always felt good."

SEE ALSO: FOODWAYS, ITALIANS, MOONSHINE, PROHIBITION.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Stanley Clark, "Immigrants in the Choctaw Coal Industry," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 33 (Winter 1955-56). Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 23 September 1915, 28 November 1942, and 17 August 1981.

Guy Logsdon

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