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Spirit in the Sky: Singing the Ballad of Oklahoma City’s SkyDance Brewing

5:02 AM EDT on October 27, 2021

I’ve made it known here that, for the most part, I’m really not an alcohol drinker.

I guess much of it comes from the addictions of family and friends over the years that have always been hard for me to mentally shake, as well as the abject fear of drugs and alcohol that was instilled in me through the various high school initiatives I was forced to take part in.

But, if I’m being truly honest, the main reason has always been the racial boogeyman that Indigenous people are far more susceptible to the addictive properties of alcohol, with addiction being almost instantaneous. It’s something that has always been the rattlesnake in my boot, having seen it destroy so many people so many times, Native or not.

So, when I went to SkyDance Brewing, 1 NE 7th St., Suite A, this past weekend, the first Native-owned brewery in Oklahoma City started by Jacob Keyes, a member of the Iowa Nation, I held those painful beliefs close to my swollen heart as I crossed their invisible threshold with a close friend and, because they’re so welcoming to pets, my loyal pup Sean.

While I have had various unimpressive brews in the past from other area breweries, oftentimes not even finishing the glass due to the wretchedness of a so-called inventive creation, either giving the remainder to friends or just leaving it for whoever might come along wanting a free gulp of whatever was leftover, I definitely never had any from a Native-owned brewery and it truly intrigued me.

From the moment I stepped into their showroom, I had a different feeling about SkyDance. Filled with a welcoming mixture of Indigenous people and others having glasses of multi-colored beers and other brewed drinks, I liked that the design of the place had none of that “forced” representation of Native history around, like dreamcatchers and other tchotchkes to reinforce that “Indian” angle.

More at ease, I ordered glasses of the Mosquito Hawk and the Full Blood, mostly for the Native tilt of their names, while my friend had the whimsically bestowed duo of Giddey Up and Chumy the Whale to sip on. (To be honest, I wanted to sample the Rez Dog simply out of my fandom of the television program, but, sadly, it wasn’t available on tap…maybe next time.)

Now, I’ll fully admit that I’m not good at differentiating between malts and hops all those brew-related terms and misnomers—at all—but I will say that this was the first time in a long time that I enjoyed the alcoholic drinks on my own terms, time-wasting in their open yard, letting the flavors—the actual flavor!—roll down my tongue with the heightened ability to taste, as opposed to quickly getting drunk.

But, if you had to ask me my preference, I truly liked the fruitier ones. Does that help at all?

Before I left, I happened to see Keyes sitting at the bar talking to a few folks. At the risk of appearing rude, I went up and introduced myself to him and we talked for a few minutes, mostly about the lies that the white media has tried to spread about Natives who have a beer or two and, even more so, the controversial idea of being a Native and opening a brewery.

It was an eye-opening conversation from someone that’s spent his time trying to perfect a taste that not only would make his family proud, but his entire lineage as well. Outside the building, there was no yelling, no fighting, no “drunk Indians” wandering around with a can in a paper bag…it honestly gave me something to think about.

These stereotypes have been ingrained on America’s image of Indigenous people long enough. And, still, while I may rarely drink, if I ever do, I’ll probably come by SkyDance for a sip or two, knowing that I’m not only proudly supporting my Indigenous people, but sampling some of the very best beer in the Metro.

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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