It was over a month ago that I had a chance to sample Dogfish Head NAMASTE a remarkable take on the Belgian Whit style that immediately reminded me of the first Belgian white I had many years ago: Celis White, from Austin, Texas. Celis of course, refers to Pierre Celis, the Belgian milkman who was responsible for saving this beer style from extinction, first creating Hoegaarden Whit. A beer that became successful enough that big business wanted in, as Mr. Celis stated: “That’s when things went downhill. The bankers wanted to take over and cheapen the ingredients used in my beers. I resisted awhile, but finally in 1990, I sold the rest of my shares to Interbrew. I was 65, and didn’t want to fight with bankers anymore.”
Of course Interbrew was just an earlier manifestation of the behemoth we know now as Anheuser-Busch InBev. Pierre Celis, no longer connected with Hoegaarden, decided to set up shop in the United States, choosing Austin, Texas because he liked the way Texans talked. The Celis from Austin was very good indeed. So much so that it produced imitations, most notably Blue Moon Belgian White. But soon the same business considerations came into play, in this case, Miller Brewing Company who purchased the brewery, and then shut it down on the last day of the year 2000.
Pierre Celis died at 86, in 2011. His daughter Christine hope to revive her Dad’s famous recipes, after reclaiming the rights to the Celis name. Pierre’s philosophy towards artisan brewing is worth repeating: “I think the most important thing is always quality. If you have no quality, it is always the same thing: you are short term. Fancy labels and marketing must come after the quality of the beer is there.”
Cheers to this Celis wisdom.