The Celis Brewery that many longtime Austinites might remember as their first introduction to good local beer is rising from the ashes.
It won’t have the same name. The name seemingly has nothing to do at all with the brewery’s founder, Pierre Celis, who brought his Belgian beer recipes all the way from Europe in the 1990s. But the upcoming Flemish Fox Brewery & Craftworks, opening in springtime next year at 2013 Rutland Drive in North Austin, is both a tribute to and a resurrection of Celis’ original beers.
Celis’ daughter Christine, who has been working with her daughter Daytona Camps at another Austin brewery, Uncle Billy’s Smokehouse & Brewery, has held onto her dream of continuing her father’s legacy despite legal battles, a tough real estate market and stringent city code — and her dedication is finally paying off.
“This is not really a new brewery,” she says of Flemish Fox, named after the language her Belgian family speaks. “This is a relaunch with a new location and a new name.”
She chose the second half of her brewery name not just for its easy alliteration but also because she likes the traits the animal is known for: “It’s getting things done quick. It’s not giving up, no matter how big the task is. Going for it despite the odds.”
When Flemish Fox opens, it’ll have a mix of her father’s old recipes — including the witbier, the cloudy, aromatic brew Celis is most recognized for — and new ones that Christine, Camps and original Celis Brewery employee Kim Clarke create. But that’s not all. Joining an automated state-of-the-art brewhouse, albeit in a separate, museumlike space, will be the brewing equipment that Pierre Celis used to resurrect the witbier recipe, which almost faded into Belgian folklore, in 1965.
Those pieces include a historic but weathered open mash tun, as well as two copper kettles, an open fermenter and a coolship for open-air fermentation. They’re all large, “full of dust and need a lot of TLC,” Christine says. And the equipment had to be literally dug out of the brick and concrete that kept it tied to a Belgian farmhouse in the village of Hoegaarden.
The next step is to get the old Celis brewhouse equipment to Austin, which is also no easy — or cheap — task. But fans of Celis beers might be able to help, thanks to an Indiegogo campaign that Christine is launching online Wednesday.
As the campaign text notes, Christine “isn’t undertaking this colossally difficult and expensive project to simply put the celebrated brew kettles in a museum. The mash tun and brew kettles will be refurbished and be put back into commission on special occasions at the new Flemish Fox Brewery to once again brew authentic beers in the true style that Pierre Celis revived.”
Flemish Fox’s large space — which includes a more than 20,000-square-foot main facility — is going to be shared with the Austin headquarters of Detroit-based Atwater Brewery, which has tried to find a building to brew here for a couple years.
Atwater’s like-minded approach to brewing, a Flemish Fox representative says, makes the partnership a logical one.
But Christine is most excited for someone else who will get to break in the brewery alongside her: her daughter, Camps, who wanted to carry on the family business before she was even of age to drink, in large part because of the influence of her grandfather.
“It’s going to be like brewing next to him. This is my purpose. My calling,” Camps says.