It was with great sadness last night that I received an email from Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf informing me that the great Pierre Celis had died. Word came to him from Pierre’s daughter, Christine.
It was my pleasure and privilege to know Pierre for many years, following our first meeting at the GABF in the early 1990’s, when his Austin, Texas brewery had just opened and his Celis White was taking the festival floor by storm. Always shy and retiring in public, Pierre was openly and obviously relieved to meet someone he could speak to in French, just as I was thrilled to meet the man who brewed the beer I count as an early epiphany, Hoegaarden White.
Over the years that followed, I never got to speak with Pierre enough, usually catching snatches of conversation here and there at some beer event or reception, and it is to my dishonour that I never found the time to visit him in Belgium after he returned to the land of his birth. I am very sorry to see him go and extend my deepest sympathies to Christine and all of Pierre’s family and close friends.
I will write more about Pierre in my next column for the Celebrator, but in the meantime I exhort you to raise a glass to the memory of the man who almost single-handedly saved the white beer style from extinction and furthered dramatically the cause of Belgian-inspired brewing in the United States. Fill your glass not with Hoegaarden, which is a shadow of its former self these days, but with something you think an inspiring and passionate brewer from an earlier era might have enjoyed.