Celis, Pierre, born in 1925, is a Belgian brewer best known for single-handedly reviving the white beer, or witbier, style a decade after its production had ceased.

White beer is an unfiltered wheat ale flavored with coriander and orange peel. Monks in Hoegaarden, a small town east of Brussels in Flemish Brabant, are credited with developing the style centuries ago. For many years, white beer was a specialty of Hoegaarden, but its popularity dwindled following the introduction of lager beers. In 1957, Hoegaarden’s last white beer brewery, Brouwerij Tomsin, stopped production.

In the 1960s, Celis was working as a milkman in Hoegaarden. He had once lived next to the Tomsin brewery, had worked there part time, and was familiar with the methods used to create this unique beer. In 1966, he pieced together a brewery, Brouwerij Celis (later renamed De Kluis), and began producing his white beer, named after his town, Hoegaarden.

The beer was well received and production increased steadily. In 1985, however, the brewery suffered a devastating fire. Funds to rebuild came from brewing giant Interbrew (now Anheuser-Busch InBev), who purchased the business outright in 1990.

Celis then turned his attention to the United States, where he founded the Celis Brewery in Austin, Texas, in 1992. There, he produced a white beer called Celis White and several other styles. Despite the high quality of the beer, the company struggled financially. In 1995, Miller Brewing Company (now MillerCoors) acquired a majority stake in the company. Miller closed the brewery in 2001 and sold the Celis brands to the Michigan Brewing Company. In 1999, Celis began licensed production of a Pierre Celis Signature Series of beers, featuring beers under the Grottenbier (Cave Beer) umbrella; early editions of these beers were aged in caves at Riemst.

In 2005, Celis published an autobiography with writer Raymond Billen, entitled Brouwers Verkopen Plezier—Peter Celis, My Life. In 2010, Celis turned 85 years old. He lives in Hoegaarden and is no longer active in brewing. He still occasionally attends brewing conferences, where he is instantly recognized and treated like a rock star.

See also inbev.