The daughter of famed Belgian brewer Pierre Celis — who introduced Austin to good beer in the 1990s with the area’s first craft brewery, Celis — gets to use her and her father’s surname after all with her upcoming brewery.
Christine Celis announced last year that she would open a brewery in North Austin using her father’s old recipes, such as the Belgian witbier called Celis White that so captivated locals nearly three decades ago, but at the time she didn’t have the rights to the name Celis Brewery and called her project Flemish Fox Brewery & Craftworks.
Now, Celis Brewery is returning in full, with a targeted opening in April at 10001 Metric Blvd.
Christine recently reacquired the ‘Celis’ trademark from Total Beverage Solution and Craftbev International Amalgamated., Inc., the former domestic and international owners of the rights. Making that deal and having the Celis name back, she says, feels like “mission accomplished.”
“I was going to do whatever it took to get the name back in my family,” she says. “I think it was important for us but also for Austin, with Celis as Austin’s very first brewery, to have that legacy. We have a beautiful brewery to show for it. It’s here to stay, and it’s not going away.”
The two companies from whom Christine was able to buy back the rights to the Celis name were the last in a line of companies starting with Miller that owned the rights after Pierre sold to Miller in 2000, being unable to fully meet the demand for his beers. Even though Pierre’s dream of gaining Celis Brewery back didn’t come to fruition, it has, at least, for Christine, who intends to preserve much of his former vision alongside her daughter, third-generation brewer Daytona Camps.
Preserving Pierre Celis’ legacy extends to many of the beers that Celis Brewery will have on tap, including Celis White and Celis Grand Cru, two of his most well-known beers. The Celis White will even be made with the same original Belgian yeast strain that he carefully preserved for many years, even after losing the rights to his Austin brewery.
“It’s been 17 years without the Celis White as he made it, as I have not had the one with the original yeast strain,” Christine says. “It’s such an important component of the beer.”
But when visitors come to Celis Brewery in its first month being open, that beer probably won’t be available just yet. She says she wants to launch with a trio of IPAs — a Belgian-style IPA and two New England-style IPAs — and have Pierre’s original brews debut in the following month or two, “to give (people) a reason to come back to the taproom,” she says.
The taproom itself might be reason enough. Its most eye-catching feature will be a bar made out of one of the original Celis Brewery’s old copper kettles, cut in half so that the bottom serves as the base around which people will sit, with the top acting as a dome above. Eventually, Celis Brewery will also have a cafe and beer garden with lots of outdoor seating, but that’s going to be a future project, Christine says. For now, the focus is on getting the brewery up and running in the more than 20,000 sq. ft. space.
A good-sized portion of that space will be devoted to a nearly 50 barrel brewhouse “modified to the way my dad had his when he first started brewing,” Christine said. She was able to get the system made with the proper specifications thanks to Bert Van Hecke, a brewery engineer and consultant for Celis Brewery.
Another future project is particularly important to her: adding a beer museum that will showcase Pierre Celis’ original brewing equipment, which include a historic but weathered open mash tun, as well as two copper kettles, an open fermenter and a coolship for open-air fermentation. These aren’t the same pieces he brewed with in Austin in the 1990s.
Before he came to America, he worked at the old Hoegaarden brewery in Belgium, making it a household name with the introduction of the Belgian witbier recipe that became Celis White. Last year, his daughter brought over much of the original equipment he used, in the hopes of restoring it and displaying it at the new Celis Brewery. As much as she wants to show it off, she knows the most important thing right now is simply getting her brewery open.
“First of all, I want to focus on the Celis Brewery and make sure that’s really done; then I can focus on the next project, which is building the museum,” she says. “I want to make sure we put it all in place like he had it in Hooegarden, so when you walk in, it’ll be almost like an identical copy.”
In the meantime, she and her daughter, Daytona, will be among the key people re-introducing Austin to Celis. There are plenty of people who remember Celis and are excited to have it back, but there are also many who will simply see Celis Brewery as the latest beer maker to open in this beer-loving town.
As a result, Celis Brewery will have an updated look — somewhat.
“The logo is going to be pretty much the same, but we’re going to update it to the 21st century,” Christine Celis says. “It’s going to look a little brighter. The people who bought Celis, they’ll recognize it right away.”
In addition to offering Celis beers on draft, she also plans to sell cans and bottles.
To keep an eye on the Celis Brewery’s progress and an announcement of a more official opening date, visit facebook.com/CelisBeers.
This post has been corrected to reflect the address of Celis Brewery is 10001 Metric Blvd.