The Thirsty Beagle

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Craft brewing arrives in unlikely Oklahoma destination

by Nick Trougakos Modified: November 14, 2013 at 2:05 pm •  Published: November 14, 2013
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For camping, fishing and hiking, it’s hard to beat Beavers Bend State Park in far southeastern Oklahoma.

As an avid camper, the McCurtain County town of Broken Bow really is a must-visit. As a beer destination, however, it’s been lacking for many years.

And I know first-hand. Mrs. Beagle grew up in Broken Bow, so the Beagle clan has traveled many, many times to the area. When we’re camping, I’m always sure to load the cooler with homebrew and other good stuff. While the rivers down there are filled with clear water and trout, the beer menus are filled with your standard BMC fair.

But things are starting to change.

A couple years ago, a trendy pizza joint — Grateful Head Pizza Oven and Tap Room — opened up just north of Broken Bow in the town of Hochatown. In addition to the BMCs, you can score Choc Beer (formerly 1919) or Last Laugh or a Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat (in 3.2 strength, due to the county’s liquor laws, but still).

The pizza was great, and the chance to support craft beer was there, so naturally, that became a stopping point on every subsequent trip. The real revelation came on our last trip there this fall.

The drink menu said to ask servers about the latest offering from Beavers Bend Brewery. I asked, and was told Beaver’s Bend would be coming on tap the next day, and that it would likely be a jalapeno beer.

Beavers Bend Brewery??? Jalapeno beer in McCurtain County? How did a brewery open up in Oklahoma without me knowing about it? Obviously I had to get to the bottom of it. Some quick Internet sleuthing (which was not helped by the level of cell service in that part of the state) led to the Facebook page and a phone number. That number got me in touch with one Chris Willingham, who along with two partners, has started McCurtain County’s first commercial craft brewing operation.

I got in touch with Willingham the next day and was brought up to speed on Beavers Bend Brewery while hiking through the woods in Beavers Bend State Park. The details: Willingham and fellow homebrewers Steve Bartholomew and Brad Reesing are brewing beer on a pilot system in Idabel, with plans in the near future to open a small brewhouse in Hochatown near Grateful Head and Girls Gone Wine.

Willingham told me that due to the county’s liquor-by-the-drink laws, they can only brew 3.2-strength beer at this time. He also told me that their Hoppin’ Jalapeno Ale would indeed be on tap at Grateful Head later that day.

So Mrs. Beagle and I headed back to Hochatown and pulled up at the bar to find an awesome giant jalapeno tap handle greeting us.

As a sucker for pepper beers, I was quite impressed with Hoppin’ Jalapeno. For McCurtain County, this is a pretty big development. Beavers Bend Brewery also offers a Backwoods Blonde, Red Slough Amber, Fleucy Creek Pale Ale, Front Porch Peach Ale and a fall pumpkin seasonal, according to their Facebook page. As I understand it, they are on tap at Grateful Head and at the Main Street Bakery in Idabel, although the selection at each may vary from week to week.

Either way, it’s nice to see craft beer infiltrating that part of the state. If craft can make it in McCurtain County, I’m pretty sure it can make it anywhere.


by Nick Trougakos
Assistant Local Editor
Assistant Local Editor Nick Trougakos has been with The Oklahoman since 2002. Trougakos covered the military, federal agencies and courts before becoming an editor in 2005. Prior to joining The Oklahoman, Trougakos was a reporter for the Oklahoma...
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