Pierre Celis - Father of Wit Beer (March 21, 1925 - April 9, 2011)
Pierre Celis was a Belgian brewer who opened his first brewery in 1966 to revive the wit beer style in his hometown of Hoegaarden. Pierre was born on March 21, 1925 in his family home on the edge of the Hoegaarden town square. He grew up working on his father's cattle farm, but also helped out in the brewery of his neighbour Louis Tomsin. Tomsin brewed wit beer, which was a speciality in the region around Celis' home town. After Tomsin closed his brewery in 1955, wit beer disappeared from Hoegaarden. Celis, who became a milkman after he married, took up beer making in 1965. The first year he started out with a wash tub in the barn of his father. With a loan from his father he bought equipment that came from an abandoned brewery in Zolder. His first batch of Hoegaarden beer was made on 19 March 1966 and he opened Brouwerij Celis (Celis Brewery). In 1980 he opened Brouwerij de Kluis as he transferred the production to new buildings. In the late 1980s his brewery burned down. Because the buildings were not insured, he was forced to sell his company to Interbrew, now AB Inbev. He then founded the Celis Brewery in the USA, which was managed by his daughter Christine.
In Honor of Pierre, I recommend drinking a Celis White, or Celis Raspberry today.