The original Celis began making beers in 1992 and closed in 2001.
The brewery that launched America’s obsession with Belgian-style witbiers is back again. And though the brewery’s original namesake – the man responsible for the recipes of legendary brews on two continents – is no longer with us, his daughter hopes she can bring her family’s brewery back to its original glory. But the biggest question will be does anyone care 25 years later?
Christine Celis, daughter and original co-partner of legendary brewer Pierre Celis, has announced she will be hosting an official grand opening party for the new Celis Brewery in Austin, Texas, on July 11 – exactly 25 years to the day that the original brewery opened. (The beers themselves are already pouring around the area.) Needless to say, a lot has changed since the ‘90s, and it will be interesting to see where Celis, which Christine bills as Austin’s first craft brewery, fits in as part of the modern landscape where Texas alone now has over 200 craft brewers.
Celis’s historical importance is undeniable. Back before Blue Moon, introduced in 1995, became the 11th best-selling American beer brand, Pierre Celis – already known for creating another famous witbier in Belgium, Hoegaarden – moved to Texas and opened his own eponymous brewery in 1992. The witbier he started brewing there, Celis White, was one of the craft beer world’s early success stories. (It recently landed the #14 spot on our list of The 25 Most Important American Craft Beers Ever.) Everything from Blue Moon to Shock Top to even other fabled craft beers like Allagash White can be traced back to Celis.
But in our modern beer world, that fame could also be a hindrance. In 1992, witbiers were revolutionary; in 2017, they’re old hat, and ubiquitous to boot. Plus, the original Celis Brewery was sold to Miller and closed in 2001. Though the brand has continued on in various forms before this complete reboot, the intervening years have not been kind to the Celis name’s cachet.
Still, Christine Celis hopes that the new brewery will be both a fresh start and a reclaiming of her family’s legacy. “It has been a labor of love to reopen Celis Brewery, and it is incredibly exciting to be back brewing my father’s original recipes like the famous Celis Wit and Celis Grand Cru using the proprietary yeast from Belgium,” she said in a statement. “We are giving Austin a part of its history back.”
The new Celis isn’t entirely steeped in the past, either. The facility has invested in state-of-the-art equipment to keep a focus on quality control – one of the issues that damaged the Celis White brand after it was sold. And along with the old recipes, Celis is also launching with its first new recipe, Citrus Grandis IPA – made in the super-trendy East Coast IPA style. Maybe Celis still has some life in it after all.