Austin is getting back a piece of its history thanks to the triumphant return of its first craft brewery, Celis Brewery. The grand opening, taking place on Tuesday, July 11, will mark Celis Brewing's 25th Texas anniversary. The re-opening of the brewery that began in Belgium and sparked a revitalization of the Belgian Witbier stamps a victory on the beer timeline. The path to get there, however, wasn't easy.
Spanning three generations and over 50 years of a turbulent history, the legacy of Pierre Celis wouldn't live on without a fight. When Pierre Celis began Celis Brewing in Belgium in 1965, the witbier style was dormant. It was his re-introduction of the Belgian-style to his hometown Hoegaarden that saved the witbier. Unfortunately, the brewery burned down. That's when he decided to take his recipe overseas to the Texas Hill Country.
In 1992, 67-year-old Pierre Celis opened his doors to Austin. At the time, there were no craft brewing production facilities in the area. In fact, brewpubs weren't even legal yet. It wasn't long before his famous witbier Celis White grew in popularity amongst others like the Grand Cru - both of which are GABF medal winners.
As production demand increased, Celis had to make a drastic decision. In order to keep up with production costs, he sold 50 percent of the brewery to Miller Brewing - but with a catch. After five years, Celis could buy back Miller's holdings. Sadly, at the end of five years, he could not and Miller took control.
Deeming craft beer to be a momentary trend, Miller closed the Celis doors in 2000, and sold the name and equipment to Michigan Brewing. What, at the time, was a defeat for the craft beer industry, would change in the next two decades to come.
When Austin thought their beloved Celis Brewing was gone forever, Pierre's daughter Christine Celis had other plans. There is no doubt that beer runs in her veins as she was running an import beer business in the area, when she sought to restore the Celis name back to the family.
She spent years re-acquiring the original equipment along with the Celis brand name - which was set to be Flemish Fox before acquisition. After buying back the name along with the recipes, Christine Celis found the right Austin location to give the city back its original craft brewery.
As Ms. Celis, founder and CEO of Celis Brewery, told Brewbound:
"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.
We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and enthusiasm we have found in Austin as we have started reintroducing our Celis beers around town in a series of tastings this month. We are thrilled to celebrate our return with a Grand Opening party on the 25th anniversary of the first grand opening. We are giving Austin a part of its history back."
The 22,000-square-foot brewery will feature a bottling and canning line, along with a brewhouse fit to output 50,000 barrels in yearly production. It will also feature the original copper kettle.
While the new brewhouse is designed specifically for old Belgian style brewing techniques, the old copper kettle has been retired into a bar. That's right. The copper kettle will be the taproom centerpiece bringing together the history and beer style that Pierre Celis graciously brought to Texas.
If that's not exciting enough, Christine plans to restore the original brewing equipment, which includes 100 year-old foeders. The plan is for these foeders to eventually feature some limited-releases - which is probably already stirring up conversations on beer forums.
Keeping in line with family tradition, the brewery will be ran by Christine Celis while her daughter Daytona Camps will immerse herself in all facets of production with the title of brewer. They will be joined by new head brewer Craig Mycoskie, who came from fellow award-winning Texas brewery Rahr & Sons Brewing Company. This already sounds like a recipe for greatness in the making.
For those that were around to remember Celis Brewing before Austin exploded into a craft beer mecca, the brewhouse will still pump out some the favorite original recipes, including the much-acclaimed Celis White. The brewery began brewing last April in hopes to distribute Celis White once again to its adoring fans.
Joining this revolutionary beer will be the likes of Celis Pale Bock and Celius Citrus Grandis IPA. Celis Pale Bock is a revisions of Pierre Celis' original Belgian Pale Bock. Pouring a deep copper, it's a rich, creamy bock made with caramel malts along with Saaz, Willamette, and Cascade hops.
Celis Citrus Grandis IPA is the first new beer added to the Celis list. Citrus Grandis is an East Coast Style IPA with tropical fruit aromatics and bold flavors of citrus, melon, passionfruit, and pineapple balanced by a piney hop bitterness. All three will be featured as year-round beers, which are now available in central Texas.
And that award-winning Grand Cru? That is set to be released in the fall along with Celis Raspberry and Celis Double Ale. The tap list isn't the only expansion in the works. Over the next few months, distribution will expand to Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Hill Country. There are already over 100 bars and restaurants offering up Celis beer throughout central Texas.
While we're just going to have to wait in anticipation for the return of the Grand Cru, the brewery is now open to the public. Stop on by the taproom located on the north side of Austin for a taste of history.
Join the Celis Brewing Grand Opening on July 11 to get a tour of the 22,000 foot facility and celebrate the Celis return to Austin. The Grand Opening will have live music, as well as food on site. New brews and old favorites like the Celis White will be on tap waiting to quench your long-awaited thirst.