By Christian Toews
From the April 2021 Biskinik
Spring is a great time to enjoy some of Oklahoma’s craft beer, wineries or distilleries. This industry has been steadily growing across Oklahoma, and Choctaw Country is no exception. In 2018 Oklahoma modernized its alcohol laws allowing craft beer to become more of a staple. These changes also lifted some restrictions on wineries and distilleries.
Let’s begin by looking at craft beer. If you are near Durant, Oklahoma, you are in luck. There is a brewery just a few minutes north that is hopping. Pun intended.
Drew Harbin is the Harbinger Beer Company owner. He and his wife Kayla had the dream of opening a brewery for years, he said. They finally made that dream a reality when they purchased a building in downtown Caddo in 2017. They completely renovated the space, adding an 1800 square feet brewery and taproom, according to Harbin.
He said that he wants the brewery to help revive the downtown area.
“It’s been really cool to see downtown Caddo come alive again. I’m really glad we can be a part of the revitalization,” Harbin said.
According to Harbin, another goal is to tie in some of the area’s history to the brewery. He said that they named several of their beers after features and the history of the local area.
Photo by Christian Toews
Drew Harbin enjoys one of his craft beers inside Harbinger Beer Company. Drew founded the brewery with his wife Kayla in 2017.
Drew said that when you come to the brewery, you get a very personal experience.
Drew and Kayla run the brewery themselves. This allows you to hear about the process of creating specific beers and learn what goes into brewing great beer.
You can find the hours, upcoming events, and more on their website at harbingerbeer.com or their Facebook page.
Drew said he recently began a podcast called “Behind the Brewhouse” if you want to get to know more about Drew.
Harbin says, between bringing food trucks to the brewery and live music, there is always something going on at Harbinger Beer Company.
If you travel to the Southeastern side of the Choctaw Nation, you will find tall pine trees, mountains and rivers. Nestled in this beautiful scenery is Hochatown, Oklahoma.
This town sits at the entrance to one of Oklahoma’s most beautiful attractions, Beavers Bend State Park. Hochatown is home to Hochatown Distilling Company, currently the only distillery in the Choctaw Nation, according to Hichell McDaniel.
McDaniel is one of Hochatown Distilling Company’s four owners, and says the distillery opened six years ago.
McDaniel says that because bourbon can take years to age, many new distilleries will purchase bourbon from another distillery and put their label on it. This allows the distillery to begin making a profit right away. However, Hochatown Distilling Company chose to not release any product until they felt like their bourbon was ready.
McDaniel said they were fortunate enough to have other businesses to help offset the cost while they perfected their bourbon. He noted that all of the bourbons they release now are about three and a half years old.
McDaniel noted the difference between a large distillery and a small distillery, saying that you can enjoy a more personal experience at a small distillery.
“We spend quite a bit of time with folks. We show them all the equipment and talk about the process. We give them an understanding of what’s happening and then do a sampling toward the end. People seem to enjoy that very much. That more personalized touch just makes for a better experience,” he explained.
McDaniel said that it could be challenging to get bourbon distributed in Oklahoma, but they feel that they are now getting recognized for their hard work.
“Six years in and we feel pretty good about where we are,” McDaniel said. “It took us a while to while for us to get distributors to pay attention to us because we didn’t have a route to sell our product.”
Their bourbon is now sold in many places across Oklahoma. Including the 1832 Steakhouse located inside the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. Hochatown Distilling Company also collaborated with Mounting Fork Brewing in Hochatown to create a barrel-aged beer, according to McDaniel.
If you would like to learn more about Hochatown Distilling Company or find tour information, visit hochatowndistilling.com.
Photo by Christian Toews
Blue River Valley Winery is a small boutique winery located near Durant, Oklahoma, on the beautiful Blue River. This Choctaw tribal member-owned business has been serving up a wide variety of wines since 2015.
Heading back over to the southwestern side of the Choctaw Nation, located on a beautiful property not far from highway 75 north of Durant sits Blue River Valley Winery. As you can tell from the name, the winery’s front porch looks out over Oklahoma’s Blue River valley.
Established in 2015, Blue River Valley Winery is a small establishment with a wide variety of wines. No matter what your preference, you will surely find a bottle that you love.
Hillary and Diane Dean are the winery owners and said that the winery location is exceptional.
“We have donkeys that everybody really loves and geese that are friendly. It’s a very rural setting out here with a beautiful view of the Blue River. People from the Dallas area come out here and say, “This is so beautiful,” said Diane.
Hillary went on to say that they pour a lot of love into the winery.
“Diane and I both had careers that we retired from before we opened the winery. The winery is not a job. It’s a passion. It’s something we both really enjoy doing and people pick up on that when they come to visit,” he said.
The Deans said that customers come from all over the country and even worldwide, which makes the business fun and exciting.
“You just never know who is going to walk through the door. You meet so many new people,” said Diane.
Hillary said that he started home brewing beer 26 years ago and that lead him to handcrafted wine.
“We were visiting Diane’s relatives in Georgia, and I had the opportunity to try some handcrafted peach wine, and that was amazing. I came back and started making wine and didn’t look back,” he said.
Once he began making wine, it stayed a hobby until November of 2015, when they opened the winery, Hillary explained.
Now in their sixth year of business, they have 22 varieties of wine and the reviews on their Facebook page indicating they are well-loved by everyone who visits the winery.
If you would like more information about Blue River Valley Winery, you can visit bluerivervalleywinery.com.
Whether you are a craft beer drinker, a bourbon connoisseur, or love a glass of local wine, The Choctaw Nation has something to offer you. It’s warming up outside, and now is the perfect time to spend an evening at one of Oklahoma’s finest wineries, breweries, or distilleries, right here in Choctaw Country.
Things to Do
- The Maze of Hochatown
- Big Foot Axe Throwing
- Beavers Bend Mining Company
- Wild Boar Ridge Hunting Ranch
- Vojai’s Winery
- Okie Girls Coffee & Ice Cream
- Hochatown Trading Post & Coffee Co
- Hochatown Coffee Central
- Hocha Cup
- Jake’s Brickhouse Grill