Craft beer lovers rejoice! Christine Celis (daughter of legendary brewer Pierre Celis) is back with her first “Gypsy Collaboration." This limited-edition beer was brewed in partnership with Adelbert’s Brewery and features all European malts and American hops fermented with Belgian yeast strains.
The copper-colored brew has the yeasty flavors of a Belgian ale with a characteristic, yet restrained, bitterness associated with American IPAs. “We didn’t want to make a beer my dad was making,” Christine says. “We wanted to challenge ourselves.”
Christine’s father is an icon in the brewery industry, known for reviving the witbier of his native Hoegaarden, Belgium. After selling his brewery and retiring at age 65, he asked his daughter Christine, “So do you want to move to Texas?” He had visited Austin on business trips and noticed the water was filtered through limestone, just like in Hoegaarden. He also famously said that Texans spoke slowly, making them easier for him to understand. Pierre Celis passed away in 2011.
“We didn’t want to make a beer my dad was making. We wanted to challenge ourselves.” — brewer Christine Celis
In 1992, Pierre and Christine opened the Celis Brewery here in Austin, and it's now considered a pioneer in American microbrewing. “At that time, we really had to educate people on craft beer,” recalls Christine.“They had no idea what a brewery looked like.” It took them 24 hours to do the first brew, and by 1995, Celis was the fastest growing microbrewery in the country.
Much of the brewing happened under the watch of brewmaster Kim Clarke, then a recent University of Texas at Austin graduate with a biology background. She worked closely with Pierre Celis, who later sent her to Belgium to train in brewing.
Kim recalls, “There was never any question if a woman could do this. Christine and her dad were always extremely supportive.”
Kim pursued a career in pharmaceutical research after the brewery closed in 2000, but now she’s back in the beer game and working on the Gypsy Collaboration series. “It’s been a great experience,” she says. “I’ve really enjoyed working at Adelbert's and with the team over there. It’s been a great pairing.” Kim and Christine spent almost four months developing the product, smelling many different hops and working with the Adelbert’s brewmaster on test batches, tweaking the beer along the way.
Christine calls their beers "Gypsy Collaborations" because she plans to keep moving to different breweries in the United States and abroad. She also intends to brew the old Pierre Celis beers again. "The core of the brand will always be my dad’s original beer," she says.
Right now the beer is available only on drought, but Celis says this week they’ll begin bottling for stores, including HEB, Whole Foods and Specs, among others.