The story of Choc Beer Company and its founder is certainly one of the more colorful we’ve encountered, featuring coal miners, American Indians, Italian food, craft beer, and federal prison. Pietro Piegari was just a young boy when his family moved from Italy to the coal-mining town of Krebs, OK in 1903. At 11, he changed his name to Pete Prichard and took up working in the mines – a dangerous proposition at any age. At 21, he suffered a devastating mining accident that crushed one of his legs so badly it prevented him from ever working as a miner again.
Pete began taking odd jobs to make money and pass the time, but he also developed an interest in brewing beer. In 1919, he began perfecting his own version of a recipe brewed by the local Choctaw Native American tribe, which he called Choc Beer and offered to the local miners. Soon, miners began flocking to Pete’s place on their lunch breaks to grab a beer, and it wasn’t long after that Pete began serving them lunch as well. In 1925, “Pete’s Place” began as an official restaurant inside of Pete’s home, serving traditional, home-style Italian food. However, Prohibition forced Pete to go underground, brewing his beer secretly in his basement. Eventually, though, the long arm of the law snared him, and Pete ended up serving two federal prison terms.
Pete’s son Bill took over running Pete’s Place in 1964, and Bill’s son Joe took over the business two decades later in 1984. Pete’s Place had been brewing and selling Choc Beer until 1980, when state authorities stepped in and shut down the brewing operations because brewpubs were still illegal in Oklahoma at the time. Thus, Pete’s Place entered a second dry period that lasted until brewpubs finally became legal in the state in 1995 (amazingly, homebrewing remained illegal in the state all the way until 2010). Joe Prichard was able to proudly reintroduce his grandfather’s Choc Beer recipe at Pete’s Place, which remains open to this day.
Now, with Michael Lalli as brewmaster, Choc Beer Company has grown to offer 6 “Story” beers, named after important episodes in Pete’s life, 3 “Specialty” beers, and 6 “Signature” brews. For more info call (918) 423-2042, and we encourage you to check out their rather nifty brewery website at www.chocbeer.com
, as well as www.petes.org
, which includes a family photo album. Cheers to family run businesses, and hand-crafted beer!