Miller to unload Celis Brewery

Will it be closed or saved by a buyer -- maybe even Pierre Celis?

Dec 3, 2000 - A Miller spokeswoman said that the company is negotiating with a potential buyer, and rumors in Austin were that it could be Pierre Celis, the Belgian brewer who founded the brewery.


Celis, visiting Austin from his home in Belgium, said Friday that his family might be interested in repurchasing the rights and recipes to their specialty beer. But they would need a partner. "If there is another brewer, I would be ready. I think that is the best solution," Celis told the Austin-American Statesman. "At my age (Celis is 75), it is difficult to start alone the brewery. If I have a partner to help, I would able again make the quality beer."

Celis founded the brewery in 1992 after selling the Hoegaarden Brewery in Belgium, where he single-handedly revived the "white" beer style. When he began brewing Celis White in Texas it immediately reached the status of world classic.

"We're still entertaining offers to sell it," Miller spokeswoman Julie Kubasa said, adding that Miller has talked with a potential buyer, although she declined to name the suitor. "There are still negotiations taking place. We're hoping the brand will be kept alive and that we can sell, if not the complete package, the trademark."

"It didn't make economic sense to keep it going at this time," Miller spokesman Jeff Waalkes said. Celis has 10 employees and sold 15,000 barrels in 1999, a tiny fraction of Miller's overall 1999 sales of 44.1 million barrels. Miller bought a majority stake in the Celis Brewery in 1995, then in April purchased the Celis family's minority interest in the business. That sale occurred when the Celis family exercised an option that required Miller to buy their share.

"For a big, big brewer like Miller, it's hard to sell special beer," Pierre Celis said. "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."

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