Belgian Style Wheat Beers

Last night I did a presentation on Belgian style wheat beers in my Level 3 Prud’homme Beer Certification Course.

I facilitated a tasting on 4 beers and gave a short presentation.

From left to right are Kiuchi Hitachino Nest White Ale, Mill Street Belgian Wit, Rickard’s White  and Shock Top Belgian White.

While preparing for this presentation I learnt a lot about the person responsible for reviving Belgian style wheat beers (White beers) in Hoegaarden. Here is a bit of history about Pierre Celis and Hoegaarden beers:
The village of Hoegaarden had been known for its witbieren (white beers). In the 1700 and 1800s they had 36 wheat beer breweries. Due to the post war economy and rise of lager production and consumption, the last wheat beer brewery closed in 1957 (Brewer – Louis Tomsin). Pierre Celis (a villiage milkman) wanted to revive the style of white beers and bring it back into the village. He spend the next few years brewing white beer by using equipment that that he used for milk processing.

Once he perfected the white beer receipe which was called Oud Hoegaards Bier (Old Hoegaarden Beer), Celis opened up his first commerical brewery called Celis Brewery (which changed it’s name to De Kluis in 1978). The demand for white beer increased rapidly and by 1974 Celis was brewing 10,250 hectolitres of Hoegaarden. The demand grew outside of Belgium and spread all over Europe.

In 1985 there was a fire in Brouwerij De Kluis and Celis lost everything. Due to lack of financial funds to rebuild the brewery and no financial aid, Celis sold the brewery to the brewers at Stella Artois. Stella Artois, who were taken over by Interbrew in 1988, immediately registered the name Hoegaarden as a  trademark.

With the proceeds he made from the sale Celis moved to Texas and started up his own Brewery called Celis Brewery (again) so he could continue making witbier with the original Hoegaarden receipe. At the same time the original Hoegaarden receipe was still being brewed in Belgium by InBev. Celis Brewery in Austin was short lived. It was taken over and closed by Miller.

In 2005 InBev announced they wanted to close the brewery and move it to Jupille. The announcement sparked protests from Hoegaarden locals and the move never happened. InBev had also changed the original Hoegaarden recipe by removing oats and changing the hops.

Pierre Celis is often referred to as The King of Belgium Wheat Beers. Unfortunately Pierre died this year on April 9.



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Filed under beer history, personal beer

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