Pierre Celis singlehandedly revived the witbier after centuries of dormancy in 1965, when he began brewing it in his barn in the Belgian town of Hoegaarden. His recipe became the recipe for Hoegaarden White Ale and sold more than 300,000 barrels at its peak in 1985, when a fire engulfed its brewery and forced a cash-strapped Celis to sell to giant Belgian company Interbrew. That company is now known as Anheuser-Busch InBev and is the reason jelly-glass tumblers of Hoegaarden can be found in outdoor restaurant spaces and beer gardens across America.
Even Hoegaarden wouldn't be the success it is today if Celis hadn't dusted himself off, moved to Texas and opened his own craft brewery just outside Austin in 1992. His Celis White was good enough to get Celis a buyout from Miller in 2000 and introduce witbier to a generation of craft brewers. Celis died in April, but his legacy is in every hazy, spicy sip a beer lover takes of a white beer this summer.
"The first one I ever tried was the Celis White, when Pierre Celis was still brewing it in Texas," Allagash's Tod says. "That's what turned me on to the style and though our white is different than that white, I love that white and remember exactly how it tasted and the mouth feel."
Two years after Celis debuted his white, Tod was selling his first batches of Allagash. A year later, Coors brewer Keith Villa formulated Blue Moon while working at the company's on-site brewery at the Denver home of Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies in Coors Field. By 2003, the U.S. would have its first Belgian-owned beer maker when Duvel Moortgat bought Cooperstown, N.Y.-based Brewery Ommegang and its Witte witbier less than a decade after its 1997 opening.Unfortunately, Celis the brand wouldn't reap any of the benefits. Pierre Celis died in 2011 at age 86, but not before his original plant in Texas was shut down and his brand was resold to Michigan Brewing in 2002. The brewer produced a lightly distributed version of Celis until last year, when the brewery was foreclosed upon and its assets were sold. This story took a more upbeat turn last summer, when Celis' daughter Christine Celis announced that she and her business partner Sushil Tyagi of Craftbev International bought back the rights to the Celis name and planned to brew her father's original recipe at an existing facility in Austin. Celis White isn't dead anymore. Like witbier was before Celis revived it, Celis White is just dormant. Yakima Brewing's Bert Grant's Perfect Porter
Today's brewers tend to think of the brewpub as an American craft cornerstone. Perhaps, but it took a Scottish import to make it so. American brewpubs and brewing taverns dated back to the Colonial era, but just about all were killed by Prohibition. When Scotsman Bert Grant came to Yakima, Wash., in 1992, he did so with the idea of brewing his beer on premises and serving it directly to drinkers with a little bit of nourishment to keep them around for more than one. That year, he opened Grant's Brewery Pub and gave birth to the nearly 1,100 brewpubs that exist across America today. What's often forgotten about Grant's little piece of beer history is that his brews including his Admiral Ale pale ale, Hopzilla IPA and his seasonal Fresh Hop Pale Ale were nothing short of extraordinary thanks to their proximity to hop country in the Yakima Valley. His IPA was somewhat less so and lacked the punch of its modern contemporaries, but that may have had something to do with his penchant for shading toward the other side of the pond. That only worked in his favor when making his Perfect Porter. Jet black with the flavor of heavily roasted malt and chocolate, it had just enough hops to keep its lingering sweetness at bay. At 4% alcohol by volume, it was also one of the first brewpub session beers at a time the term "session" hadn't quite made the trip over the Atlantic yet. Grant's brewpub closed in 2005 and some of his recipes had fallen off well before then, but at a time even hardened beer lovers are hard pressed to tell the difference between a porter and a stout, Perfect Porter was a great introduction to a still obscure style. -- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.
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