By Jared Dillon
Hoegaarden is a small town located in Flanders, Belgium. Historically known for a wit style ale, the town ceased brewing the style in 1955.
Witbier is a top-fermented style ale that often has a very hazy, white appearance. Witbiers historically used a variety of spices and other ingredients instead of hops.
Hoegaarden is one of the distinct examples of the style and the basis of this beer using coriander and orange. So, how exactly did Hoegaarden become synonymous with the witbier style of Belgium? It all has to do with a gentlemen named Pierre Celis.
In 1955, Louis Tomsin closed his brewery in Hoegaarden which at the time was the last brewery in the area brewing witbier. Since he was a neighbor, Pierre Celis, who was 30 then, often helped out at the brewery. His profession though was as a milkman.
Taking his experience from working under Tomsin and with a loan from his father he bought equipment from an abandoned Belgian brewery.
He officially began brewing his witbier which was named Hoegaarden in 1966. The revitalization of the witbier style began with Celis’s efforts and by the 1980s he was brewing nearly 300,000 barrels a year.
Tragedy struck Pierre Celis when his brewery burned down in 1985. Celis being underinsured was forced to sell the Hoegaarden brand to Interbrew, who would eventually buy Anheuser-Busch, becoming Inbev, the biggest beer company in the world.
The beer is still brewed by Inbev to this day. In 2005, much commotion was made as Inbev planned to move the Hoegaarden production to the Jupille Brewery.
The complaints and the fact that the beer was unable to be brewed at the Jupille Brewery caused an end to this plan. So the Hoegaarden Brewery still exists.
Pierre Celis would eventually brew again in Austin, Texas, where he started Celis Brewery. His flagship style would be his Celis White.
Once again a larger company — Miller Brewing Company — would buy Celis’s trademark brew. After the purchase many consumers felt the quality of the the Celis brand had been compromised.
Last year Celis’s daughter repurchased the trademark for the Celis brand. Upon her purchase she vowed to bring back the same quality products that Celis was known for throughout his fifty years of brewing experience.
Celis’ white ales were distinctively perfect for the summer months. The flavors of bitter orange, and light coriander make them highly refreshing. The light body and lively carbonation also help make them the distinctive examples of the style.
We will be tasting a variety of wheat and witbier styles at Idyll Awhile Wine Shop starting at 6:30 p.m. May 16.
The cost is $25 per person and each beer will be paired with an individual food item. For any questions call us at (951) 659-9463.