Icon of White Beer Passes

“King of Belgian White Beer” dies at 86.

To most his name itself probably doesn’t mean much, but to the true beer enthusiasts and certainly to those in the craft beer industry, his influence has almost assuredly had an impact. Celis is widely considered one of the forbearers of the craft-brewing movement in America. His self-named brewery operated in Austin from the mid-1990s to 2001.

Celis, a longtime milkman, did not start making beer until he was 40. He started in a cowshed. He was born in Hoegaarden, Belgium, and founded the beer named after his hometown in 1966. Hoegaarden had been without a witbier brewery, a specialty in the area, for 11 years. Though the wheat beer style had been a Belgian staple since the 1400s, Celis was widely considered to have reignited the declining popularity of the beer style.

In 1987, a fire gutted the Hoegaarden brewery. With no insurance, Celis took loans from other breweries, the largest of which, Artois (Stella Artois) ended up with a share in the business. After Artois was sold to InBev, Celis faced pressure to increase sales dramatically and make a more marketable beer. Instead, he sold the brewery altogether and moved his operations to Austin, Texas.

By the mid-1990s he was again brewing Celis Beer, and making a name for himself as one of the early leaders of the American craft beer movement. But his investors decided to sell to Miller Brewing in 2000, soon closing the brewery, and then sold the brand name to Michigan Brewing Company.

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  1. jfulton says

    SAD DAY!!

    Rest in peace Pierre! You have been an inspiration to many and will be missed greatly!

  2. Scott M says

    He never let misfortune interfere with his dreams. Pierre’s life is a true brewers inspiration!! RIP, Sir!!

  3. liammckenna says

    I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the man at a CBC many moons ago in Austin TX.

    He was a real pioneer for all of us.

    How fortunate we are to have had him and his inspirational approach. He certainly had a very large influence on American beer culture at an early moment in Craft brewing, paving the way for many. The world needs more brave people like Pierre.



  4. BMXFRANK says

    A true pioneer with a great story. I was planning on brewing my Zoe Wit later this month. I will be sure to mention this in my beer card descriptions. Cheers to you Pierre.

  5. NYSBrewer says

    We should all brew a White beer in honor of this beer pioneer and release them all on the same day!! White beer all over the country, run specials at pubs, beer bars and breweries!!

  6. BMXFRANK says

    Tim, thats a great idea. At least for those of that brew this style and those thinking of it. if we coordinate a release date that can give other brewers time to get materials on hand to do the release. Announce it on all the forums, beer rags, etc., and have a mutual toast.