Coal mining, Native Americans, craft-brewing, meatballs and prison all come together in the storied past of the man responsible for creating the beers of the Choc Beer Company. Young Pietro Piegari arrived in America from Italy in 1903, settling with his family in the coal-mining town of Krebs, Oklahoma. At just 11 years old, he signed on to work in the mines and changed his name to Pete Prichard, but before his 22nd birthday, a mining accident crushed one of his legs, permanently preventing his return to the coal mines.
In order to find work and pass the time, Pete took odd jobs and took up an interest in brewing beer. In 1919 he came across a recipe brewed by the local Native American tribe, the Choctaw, and worked on perfecting his own interpretation, which he named Choc Beer. Naturally, when other miners were on meal breaks, they headed up to Pete's place to grab a beer. It only seemed natural to Pete to begin serving them lunch to go with their beers. In 1925, he formalized this ritual by opening a restaurant in his home which served literally home-style, authentic Italian food. And since everyone was already calling it "Pete's place," it became permanently known by the same name. Prohibition ended up sending Pete undercover to make his beers, brewing batches discreetly in his basement and continuing to sell it to customers. But ultimately, the law caught up to him and he served two federal terms in prison for violating prohibition laws. Joe Prichard, Pete’s Grandson, took over Pete's Place in 1984 from his father, Bill, who took over from his father (Pete) in 1964. They were actually brewing and selling Choc beer until 1980, when a visit from the authorities finally led to the taps being shut off because brewpubs were illegal in Oklahoma at the time (remarkably, homebrewing remains illegal in the state). So, after a second dry spell (this time for 15 years and remarkably, post-prohibition), brewpubs became legal in Oklahoma in 1995 and Pete's grandson, Joe Prichard, reintroduced his family's Choc Beer recipe to the public at the family restaurant, which remains in operation to this day.
Today, with brewmaster Michael Lalli, Pete's Place, brewing as “The Choc Beer Company,” has at least four specialty beers and six year-round beers: Waving Wheat, Miner Mishap, Basement Batch, 1919, Pietro Piegari and Last Laugh. These six beers represent the six major chapters of the life of Pete Prichard—whose story is elaborated on at the Choc Beer Company's website and illustrated on each beer’s label. We encourage you to check out the full story online at their website, and seek out their finely crafted, family-brewed beers wherever you can!
For more information about Pete's Place or the Choc Beer Company, call (918) 423-2042 or check out their web sites at www.petes.org and www.chocbeer.com.