After a 17-year fight, famed Celis Brewery is currently re-launching its iconic Belgian-style beers in its city of origin, Austin, Texas. Under the tenacious leadership of Christine Celis, the daughter of original founder and brewing legend, Pierre Celis, the brewery is finally operating and bringing beer lovers the beers that changed the landscape of American craft beer. Christine, along with her daughter Daytona Camps, Head Brewer Craig Mycoskie (formerly of Rahr & Sons Brewing), and a long list of original Celis employees, has been fighting to get her family’s name back and reopen Celis Brewery. As of June 2017, nearly 20 years of tireless battling have paid off.
A Brief History of Celis Brewery
Pierre Celis, after having resurrected the Witbier style in Belgium, moved to Austin, Texas. Pierre opened his Celis Brewery in 1992. Pretty amazing considering how much the “Big 3” dominated the market in that decade. However, there was something both Celis White and Celis Raspberry had that appealed to pale lager-loving Texans.
By the end of that decade in the midst of the first brewing resurgence in the U.S., the brewery was having trouble keeping up with demand. Pierre turned to the outstretched hand of Miller Brewing Company. Well, of course selling to Miller didn’t turn out well at all for the Celis family. But that’s just a glimpse of the struggles the Celis name has faced over the years, as it wasn’t the first time Celis had found himself selling off his livelihood.
Pierre was forced to sell his first brewery, Hoegaarden, which he founded in 1966, after a fire left him short of funds. The finding of a home for a new brewery in Texas of all places would prove to be both a blessing and curse. Shortly after the sale — as some may remember — quality and production issues (perhaps intentional) led Miller to close the brewery in 2000. This left nothing in the hands of the Celis family — including the rightful use of their name.
Years of Struggle
After briefly stepping away from the industry that cut her so deeply, Chrisitine found refuge at the Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville, Michigan. For a good number of years, the recipes for White, Pale Bock, and Raspberry were produced and made available for the Texas market. However, they just did not seem to have that special something that the beers from the original brewery once had. Coupled with MBC’s own financial troubles the Celis brand yet again met its demise in 2012, leaving Christine and her family’s brand floating at sea without any hopes of finding shore. But Christine wouldn’t give up.
The New Celis Brewery
Christine pushed on and kept battling to restore her family’s rightful position in the craft brewing world — with or without the use of her family’s name. Construction of a new 22,000 square foot brewery in Austin began. There would be beer brewed by a Celis for the world to enjoy, regardless of what it was called.
All the while, Christine, her family, and her friends continued to work tirelessly to regain ownership of the Celis brand from Total Beverage Solutions and Craftbev International Amalgamated, Inc. Plans were even made to open the new facilty under the name Flemish Fox Brewery. However, after so many years of tirelessly fighting, Christine won what was rightfully — and obviously — hers: her family’s name. The legacy of Celis Brewery was restored.
Celis Brewery Reopens
Now, operational and flying under the Celis Brewery flag, the new brewery is set to reestablish Christine and her family within the brewing industry. The brewery is located among good company, both Oskar Blues Brewing Co. and Adelberts are located in nearby business parks in the North Burnett area.
The facility is a wonderful blend of New World technology in the brew house with Old World warmth up front in the Tap room. Christine was even able to incorporate her father’s old brewing equipment into the bar along with labels and memorabilia from the old brewery. There are also plans for a brewing museum right next door with Pierre’s old Hoegaarden equipment that has been shipped over from Belgium.
Why Should Anyone Care About This?
Well for one, the beer is excellent thanks to the man in front of the operations, Craig Mycoskie. His recent post up in Fort Worth with Rahr & Sons has prepped him for all that’s to come with Celis Brewery.
Marc Castaldo, Flying Saucer Beer Director, got the chance to tour the facility and see what Craig has in store. “You immediately sense his passion, but more so his ability to guide the brewery towards a bright future.” says Castaldo of Mycoskie. “Of course, the first beer we were able to try was the classic White. It did not disappoint.” Also tried was the Pale Bock (which currently sits at almost 8% ABV, but word is the percentage will be lower at production level, Castaldo reports). Additionally, a special line under the name Flemish Fox is still in the works. And to prove they’re not stuck in the 90’s, they’re even brewing a New England-Style IPA full of all the juicy characteristics of that new age “style”.
This is a momentous occasion for craft brewing. A true original has come home and has been rightfully restored. While the tap room hasn’t quite been completed, Celis beer is in production and currently on its way to Austin Flying Saucer.
Cheers and congratulations to Christine and the Celis family! Pierre’s legacy was cemented long ago. Christine, Daytona, and Craig, now have the ability to cement the brand in one place all while cementing their own legacies.