Michigan Brewing Company
Style: Belgian White (Witbier)
As I’ve mentioned previously, Bobby Mason’s Michigan Brewing Company is a favorite oasis on a road trip as a refreshing trip to the tasting room is a perfect break on the way east or west.
On this trip, I decided to go with their “famous” Celis White, the choice of my lovely road trip partner as she’s partial to the wit beers.
Celis is a pretty interesting tale.
According to the Austin Statesman, “As a boy in his hometown of Hoegaarden, Pierre Celis enjoyed and from time to time helped brew witbier, a light-bodied, refreshing beer brewed primarily with wheat. This white beer, so named because the yeast suspended in the liquid made the beer look cloudy or milky white, had been losing favor locally to German-style beers made with malt that were filtered clear of yeast. By the end of the 1950s, not a single brewery in the Province of Flemish Brabant produced the 500-year-old witbier style.
In 1966 Celis, a milk distributor at the time, decided to make a witbier for himself at home. He used the traditional ingredients, water, yeast, wheat, hops and coriander and dried Curacao orange peel for spice. So satisfied was he that he eventually opened a small brewery. Witbier was a forgotten pleasure Belgians eagerly welcomed back.
The beer’s international popularity was such that when Celis’ brewery burned to the ground in 1985, InterBrew, a Belgian brewing conglomerate, offered to rebuild it. Six years later they bought him out.”
At the age of 60, Celis had money, time and options. By the early ’90s, he founded Celis Brewery in Austin, the state capital of Texas, as microbreweries became legal in that state. The brewery was operated along with his daughter and son-in-law, and expanded quickly. Eventually, they partnered up with Miller Brewing Company to gain distribution access and production expansion in the competitive world of U.S. brewing, the so called Beer Wars.
This partnership soured, however, even as Celis White, Grand Cru and other brands were winning major brewing awards throughout the ’90. Eventually, he sold out to Miller, who in turn closed the Austin brewery and shut down the brand.
In 2002, Michigan Brewing Company acquired the brands and moved production to its Webberville facility, where the White, Cru, and Raspberry live on.
Celis White has a mild citrus nose and pours pale yellow in color with a nice full head. The body is crisp and tastes are effervescent on the tongue as the carbonation exaggerates the orange and spiced flavors. There’s a light, hoppy bite and the flavors round out smoothly with a hint of banana and cream, along with the citrus fruitiness. It’s delightful and surprisingly complex for a lighter brew.
This is a fine effort by Michigan Brewing to continue the tradition of Pierre Celis.