Farewell to the King of Witbier
• April 9 was a sad day for craft beer generally and in Austin specifically: 86-year-old Pierre Celis passed away from cancer. The Belgian brewer established himself as a legend in the 1960s when he single-handedly saved the witbier ("white beer") style at his Hoegaarden brewery. His version, spiced with coriander and orange peel, inspired imitators. After selling his interest in Hoegaarden, he moved to Austin in the 1990s, attracted by a water quality similar to that of his home, and established Celis Brewery. For local brewers, it was like having a rock star in their midst, and he helped put Austin on the map of the still-emerging American craft-brewing scene. His Celis White, Pale Bock, Grand Cru, and Raspberry brews proved quite popular. In 1996, he sold a stake to Miller Brewing, which didn't know what to do with the label and eventually shuttered it. In 2002, Miller sold the rights to Michigan Brewing Company, which now faithfully re-creates his recipes – but without the words "Austin, Texas" on the label.
• Beer at the Lege: Last week, House Bill 602 passed the Texas House, and now it must get through the Senate. Unfortunately, HB 660 is still stuck in committee. Both bills would provide distribution options for Texas craft brewers – microbreweries and brewpubs, respectively – more in line with what wineries can do. Keep checking our News section, our Newsdesk blog, or my personal blog for updates.
• The Austin craft-brewing scene is exploding. In the past year, so many new breweries have launched or are about to launch that it can be hard to keep track. To get through this jungle, you need a guide. And now you have one: Look at the city's better beer emporiums for the inaugural edition of the Austin Beer Guide. A collaboration between the tipsy imaginations of local beer bloggers Chris Troutman and Josh Spradling (www.beertownaustin.com) and Aaron Chamberlain (www.craftaustin.com), this slim, back-pocket-ready magazine gives a comprehensive (well, unless five minutes have passed) list of Austin breweries to aid in your beer-hunting. Each brewery's page gives a short bio, a list of both year-round and seasonal beers, and editors' recommendations. They also have maps and interviews with brewers about what they're working on and what other beers they love. For more info, check out www.austinbeerguide.com.
Lee Nichols blogs about beer at www.i-love-beer.blogspot.com.