Celis Brewery | A Texas Craft Brewery Profile

Pierre Celis is a beer legend. If you know, you know.

Pierre’s name is synonymous with the Belgian Witbier style, or “white” beer. Historically there were three styles of Witbier dating back to the 1300s: The Peeterman, Bières blanches de Louvain (both from Leuven, Belgium), and of course the Hoegaarden Witbier style. Of the three, the Hoegaarden and Louvain were by far the most popular, though Hoegaarden ultimately was more prized.

At one point in the 1500s, the village of Hoegaarden was exporting 78,000 liters of its Witbier to Leuven. By 1957 though the last Witbier brewery in Hoegaarden, Brouwerij Tomsin, was closed, though the village had one saving grace: Pierre Celis. Celis, a milkman from the village of the same name, resurrected the style in 1966 when he founded the first Celis Brewery. The Peeterman and Louvain died out soon after, leaving his village’s Witbier the only one the world knows today.

By 1985, Pierre Celis not only had brought the Hoegaarden Witbier back to his village, but to all of Belgium, and it soon spread all over the world. Though life would change dramatically in 1985 when Pierre’s brewery burned down.

Pierre was underinsured and had little choice but to sell a majority to the Stella Artois Brewery in Leuven, later becoming what is now Anheuser-Busch InBev. The new ownership tweaked the recipe, according to Pierre’s daughter Christine Celis. Having been made a stranger in his own brewery, Pierre sold his shares in the new company and moved his family, which included Christine, to Austin, Texas, where he opened Celis Brewery once again in 1991.

“When we arrived in the United States,” Christine says, “my father smuggled his yeast in vials that he had stuffed in his socks.”

Fast forward a few years and Celis had reached a point where it was difficult keeping up with demand. Miller Brewing came calling and Pierre sold a majority stake to the brewing giant to help expand. History was repeating itself. Six months later, Miller pulled Celis out of 25 states, which signaled the end, and by 2001 Celis 2.0 was closed.

Remaining Authentic to Pierre’s Vision

Much like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Celis was reborn in 2017. Christine Celis, along with a few investors, and her daughter Daytona Camps, reopened the iconic Celis Brewery in North Austin off Metric blvd.

“This has been a long road,” says Christine. “We had been working for years to get the brewery back and under family ownership.” Continuing her father’s legacy is important to Christine and Daytona.

Celis 3.0 began brewing operations in July of 2017 on the anniversary of the date the first Austin Celis opened up. “We have tried to be faithful to my father and still keep an eye on what the industry has become,” Christine says.

A Mix of Classic and Modern-day

The bar that sits in the current Celis taproom is truly a treat. Christine created the now iconic bar at the new brewery by using the very Celis mash tun used in the 90s.

Though careful attention is given to honoring the past, Christine Celis, who once used to roller skates around her father’s old brewery, and the current ownership, have modernized this next chapter in Celis Brewery. There’s a 50-hectoliter (42.60 barrel) brewing system (designed by Belgian brewmaster Bert Van Heck) with a hot liquor tank outside to help keep the brewhouse cooler; a couple of 100-barrel fermentation tanks, and the malting room is on the second floor. All very Belgian.

Christine was able to get her father’s original yeast strain back as well. It had been stored in Belgium for propagation and safekeeping, allowing enough yeast to propagate at the new brewery’s lab.

Celis Brewery Team Adds More Family

Initially, Celis brewed its well-known Pale Bock and an East Coast-style IPA, with the famous Celis White, and Grand Cru soon following. Though that eye on current industry preferences has produced Dubbel Coffee Porter, Paddle Out IPA, Red Czech Red Lager, Juicy IPA, Belgian- style Quad, and even a double Witbier.

Christine’s daughter Daytona Camps, granddaughter of Pierre Celis, rounded out the brewing team at Celis. Camps found a love of her family’s history and brewing when she was 19.

Celis is back and with it a grand brewing tradition from a family passionate about beer and protecting history much the way Pierre did.


Jeremy Banas is the author of Celis Beer: Born in Belgium, Brewed in Texas

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