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Of bootlegging and old Choc beer repices

Nick Trougakos Published: January 3, 2014

The staff here at The Okahoman has been working on a neat package for this weekend’s paper about the history of bootlegging in the state.

As part of the package, our video crew took a look at the underground beer scene in and around the McAlester area in the 1900s. When the crew started putting feelers out for somebody who could go on camera to re-create a historic Choc beer recipe, I knew just the guy to help out: (cough, cough) Me.

I contacted Choc Beer Co. brewmaster Michael Lalli and got a recipe for the old-school Choc beer our crew had learned about. The recipe was not like anything I had ever made:

-3 pounds 2-row barley

-2.5 pounds table sugar

-1 oz. Liberty hops

-1 package ale yeast

That’s it. Lalli’s direction called for a one-hour mash at 150 degrees and no boil. Hops were incorporated at the start of the mash. Fermentation was two weeks, followed by bottling with priming sugar. The result:

The beer isn’t the worst-tasting thing ever, I’m pretty sure. But it’s not going to win any awards for robust flavor, either. But what would you expect with only 3 pounds of malt, right? It actually tastes like a peculiarly malty light beer. How’s that for a ringing endorsement!

Anyway, it was a fun project to take part in. Brewing beer on camera is actually a little nerve-wracking. The whole time the camera was rolling I worried that I might say something wrong about brewing technique and homebrewers everywhere would come unglued. But for the most part I think I handled it pretty well. (Except for when I forgot to add the table sugar right at the end of the mash — I stuck it in the pot after I started icing the beer down. Just a minor detail, you know, nearly forgetting one of the beer’s two main ingredients.)

So here is the video of brew day and bottling day. Great work by the video crew here, if I do say so. And don’t forget to pick up Sunday’s newspaper to check out the bootlegging package.


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