Christine Celis literally grew up in a brewery. Born and raised in Hoegaarden, Belgium, she remembers climbing into mash tuns and helping her father, Pierre, clean out the spent grain after his brews.
Her story is like others who grew up in beer-focused families, but there's one difference: Pierre is credited with reviving the modern Belgian witbier, a style that almost died out with the brewers who traditional created it in the mid-20th century. In fact, the Hoegaarden wheat beer you see on shelves today was inspired by his original recipe.
Pierre moved to Austin in the 1990s and began a brewery under the family name Celis Brewery, which was eventually sold to MillerCoors. He died in 2011, but Christine is now planning the ultimate tribute to him.
This spring, she will open a new Celis Brewery in Austin with the intent of brewing some of his original Belgian beers.
"I wanted to do this a very long time," Christine says. "It was always my goal to continue his legacy."
Christine announced plans to open a brewery last spring under the moniker Flemish Fox Brewery and Craftworks. That was before she acquired trademark to Celis, which through a series of sales was owned Total Beverage Solution and Craftbev International Amalgamated, Inc. The brewery will still be in the same space, 22,000-square-foot facility in North Austin that is being outfitted with a 50-hectoliter (about 45 barrels) brewing system.
The taproom will house a piece of history: a copper kettle from Pierre's original brewery in Hoegaarden that has been retrofitted as the bar. Christine also plans to build a working Celis museum with other equipment she brought to the states from Belgium, where she'll brew sour beers, in particular, goses, she says.
Christine is going to start by brewing several IPAs, however, to break in the system before trying out her father's recipes.
"When I'm brewing one of my dad's original beers, it has to be perfect or I'm not selling it," she says.
Those beers, including the Celis White, use a proprietary yeast strain that she has maintained over the years.
Celis Brewery will begin production this spring and its beers will be widely available in Austin and San Antonio thereafter. Christine hopes the brews will make their way to Dallas by summer.
While the opening her own brewery is certainly rewarding, Christine says the best part is making it a family affair. Her daughter Daytona Camps is also a brewer and will be following in her grandfather's footsteps behind the brew kettle. Christine's mother, Juliette, still lives in Hoegaarden and is happy to see the family name back in the family, she says.
"After waiting 17 years almost, this is all reality now," Christine says. "Mom is 85 and so I want to bring her over here so she can participate in the opening."