Beer Break Vol. 2, No. 23
Celis Brewery finds a home
March 14, 2002
Michigan Brewing Co. in Weberville, Mich., has acquired the Celis Brewery
equipment from Miller Brewing, including the 100-barrel brewhouse, tanks, packaging
equipment, office equipment, lab equipment and everything else down to the
Twenty-seven semi tractor-trailer trucks delivered the equipment from Austin,
Texas, this week. Now that Michigan Brewing has bought the famous brewery
lock, stock and barrel, many beer drinkers would like to it acquire the Celis
brand, still owned by Miller. When Miller closed the brewery 15 months ago, a
spokeswoman said: "There are still (sales) negotiations taking place. We're
hoping the brand will be kept alive and that we can sell, if not the complete
package, the trademark."
In other words, there is hope.
Pierre Celis, who revived the "white" style of beer in his native Belgium
before selling the Hoegaarden brewery to Interbrew, established the Texas
brewery in 1992. His beers, including Celis White, quickly earned a cult
Miller bought a majority stake in the Celis Brewery in 1995. It purchased the
Celis family's minority interest in the business in April of 2000 and closed
the brewery by year's end.
"For a big, big brewer like Miller, it's hard to sell special beer," Pierre
Celis said at the time. "Special beer you sell more like wine, from the color
or the taste and the aroma.... The quality was good. Every year we had gold
medals, silver medals."
Michigan Brewing has proved it knows how to sell craft beer. It is the fifth
largest brewery in the state with a capacity near 6,000 barrels. Its
Renaissance Spelt Ale has attracted particular attention. The beer is made
with 100% Michigan organically grown spelt. Spelt is a primitive form of
wheat that produces a beer people with allergies to barley and wheat can
enjoy without allergic reaction.
"It was Hildegard of Bingen, the Nun who wrote about hops in the 12th
century, who alerted the world in her writings that spelt was the most
wholesome food grain on the face of the earth," Halfpenny said. "So we made
beer with it."
The "new-old" brewery itself is beautiful, a 100-barrel copper dome kettle
and mash/lauter tun built before World War II and used only briefly before
the war. The equipment sat unused about 50 years before Pierre Celis bought
it and moved the brewery to Austin. Michigan Brewing is just the third owner
of the "low mileage vintage gem."
Michigan Brewing will install the brewery in a new and larger facility, and
plans to have the new equipment online later this year. The Belgian white
style, also known as Wit, will be a large part of its future. The equipment
trucked to Michigan included a coriander mill, to grind one of the spices
that make wheat beer so distinctive.
"How many breweries do you know of that have a mill dedicated to coriander?"
Only one that's been to Belgium, Texas and Michigan.
Pairing of the week
Corned beef and cabbage and stout, of course. A solid stout should be able to
take on the strong flavors, salt and spiciness of corned beef.
From The Celebrator Beer News Blind Tasting Panel
The original stout still tastes best on draft. It delivers the best head of
the bunch, thick and creamy with the strongest, smoothest flavors. Clean, as
an Irish stout should taste.
Crisp and tart with good balance, this tasty stout also boasts subtle hints
of licorice and chocolate.
GUINNESS EXTRA STOUT (Bottle)
A completely different recipe from the other available Guinness stout, the
bottled version tastes dry and bitter with a sharp, crisp finish.
GUINNESS PUB DRAUGHT CAN
Fairly dry with clean, decent flavors, but slightly over-tart and a little
MURPHY'S PUB DRAUGHT CAN
Nitro stout lingers on the tongue with good Irish character and a nice, long
aftertaste that won't quit.