Sunday, October 1, 2017

The 90's Return! Taste Test: Celis White


this post can be accompanied with any of the following tracks: 

In the 1990's, Austin was home to the Celis Brewery.  I don't think their distribution reached far outside of Central Texas, but they were much beloved here in The City with the Violet Crown.  Prior to the arrival of Celis, local favorites were more or less Shiner Bock and, while we had Lone Star, it was sort of reserved for "we're cooking burgers and it's 100 degrees out and no one cares" drinking.

I wasn't much of a beer snob (I still definitely am not), but I knows what I likes.  And I was a fan of Celis, particularly Celis White.  Also, Celis Pale Rider, but we're not here to talk about that one today.  If you read the picture above you'll note that Celis was brewed in the Belgian style.  I didn't know much about that then or now, but in our poor college and post college days, it was a bit of a premium beer that folks agreed upon, and if someone brought it over, it was like a sign of respect.

Eventually, as happened with many fine beers of the 90's, the brand was purchased by a larger company, they attempted wider geographic distribution but it didn't take.  So, instead of just giving it back and letting us live our lives, they shut it down.  Why?  Why do that?  Just let us have the beer.

Anyway, flashforward to 2016 and it became clear Celis was coming back.  The family had re-obtained all the legal necessaries, they got a brewery going again, and last week when I was walking through HEB (the Texas-based grocery store chain that is to Texas what Publix is to our friends in The Sunshine State) and one of those PR folks was handing out samples.  I mean, I didn't need a sample if I properly remembered the '90's, but it was a happy exchange and I walked away with a six-pack of Celis White, what I consider (and I assume they do, too) the flagship of Celis.

This week was bananas.  I could have just popped a beer, but JimD, also a product of 90's Austin, suggested an old-school Taste Test (this was something we did from time to time at the League of Melbotis blog).  So, here we are.

Lucy, underage, will not be participating in this nonsense

Your humble blogger:

not so much a forehead as a five-head

I admit, I'm a bit wary.  The 90's were a long time ago.  Celis was one of the best beers I had *at the time*, but I'm not going to pretend I haven't had some good beer inbetween.  Can nostalgia have led me astray?

I should also point out:  I am aware you people have decided "right now, I'm really into some really hoppy beers" - your code for: if it's not so hoppy your beer burns, you won't take anything else seriously.  Well, I've always liked something more wheat-y, also - that's a plain dumb standard, you nerd.

If you think this is a 90's wardrobe change, no.  I have dressed the same since 1997.  I don't need to change, YOU change.

I'd like to say the smell immediately sends me back to 1996, blasting Hootie and the Blowfish and trying to sort out whats in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction (or whatever we did in the mid-90's).  But, it was mostly just a very pleasant aroma. Can I detect the orange and coriander?  No.  Hell no.  But not all beer smells great (check out a Danish beer sometime), and this one kinda does.  In a beer-y way.

the first sip




give it another go


we dig it
I have no idea if this is exactly what Celis White tasted like back in the day.  It's certainly not very far off, if memory serves, and supposedly taste and smell are pretty well linked to human memory centers, so I'll say it threw no flags nor tasted unfamiliar.

It's a lighter beer, wheaty with a strong personality.  You can definitely pick up on some citrus notes, but I'm realizing I don't actually know what coriander tastes or smells like.  I'm also not particularly adept at describing *good* flavors, but it's a welcome difference from other wheat beers I've enjoyed in recent years.  Not as smooth as, say, a Blue Moon, but it's not supposed to be that innocuous.  There's something a bit stronger going on, but I think I'd rip off their idea and try this with an orange at some point.

The Signal Watch Seal of Approval

In short, I'm thrilled to have it back.  In pondering this beer and this post, I may be realizing that my taste for wheat beers may have flowed from Celis White, lo, those many years ago.  Long live Celis.

I am a bit concerned as Austin has a crowded beer scene these days - one that in no way existed during the 1990's.  And, Celis has some cultural issues to overcome.  Austin has grown a lot since the heyday of Celis, and the younger kids and newcomers won't remember it or have the nostalgia to immediately reach for a six-pack.  And, frankly, people are super weird about Old Austin and are extremely quick to dismiss what the olds once did (when people say "that's so Austin," I've lived here since the mid-80's, and I have no idea what the kids mean by that these days), and people my age will immediately begin telling you what rubes Austinites once were.  So, so cosmopolitan these days.  We don't trust who we were back then.  That's okay.

The best thing for Celis to do is keep making good beers and not worry about it.  The hops nerds will keep telling themselves they've uncovered some mystery and the rest of us will enjoy a good wheat beer.

and you wonder why I drink

Jamie, of course, was not going to be left out, and I refuse to deny my darling buttercup anything her precious heart desires.

HEY.  That lady took my beer!



a thought grows

A ringing endorsement from Troubles McSteans!
And Jamie really isn't a big beer drinker.  But the lady knows what she likes.

Lucy, on the other hand...

I have no thumbs.  I can't even try to hold that bottle, lady.


horus kemwer said...

Coriander = cilantro seeds.

I didn't much like Belgian when Celis White was first around, but do now, so it will be interesting to see if I dig it if I ever come across a bottle.

Glad to see the taste test return!

The League said...

You know, that explains a bit of why I was of the opinion the flavor was "bolder" than, say, Blue Moon. It's tough to say "yeah, it was a zing to it," because that could give the wrong impression, but I'm betting that the coriander is what gave it that extra punch.

No idea what their distribution will be, but I hope it's at least across the state.

J.S. said...

I remember the Celis beers fondly, but I haven't picked any up since the re-release. I'm a little afraid to, I think. Back when I was drinking them (the 90's), they were one of the rare domestic beers on the market that tasted different than the rest (and most domestics were pretty damn similar- even Shiner Bock was differentiated more on the basis of color than taste). I remember drinking a Bass, Guinness, or Sam Adams when I wanted something better. But Celis was from Texas. Hell, it was from Austin. I went on their brewery tour during law school, and the people who worked there were great. I was sad when it got bought and subsequently closed.
But now they're re-entering a very saturated beer market with many, many different kinds of good beers available (some hoppy, but by no means all). They're going to have to get aggressive pretty quickly and release some new beers unless they just want to cruise on nostalgia and become a lower end brand.
I wish them the best.
But I'm worried about trying to go back...

The League said...

They *have* been doing a lot of outreach (I don't know if you noticed I mentioned they were giving away samples at HEB), but it's all for nothing if the potential audience decides "for reasons having nothing to do with taste, cost, availability, I am not drinking this beer."

You know, I frankly thought the Celis White was as good or better than any beer I've tried from a local brewery, and I like stuff from 512, Hops and Grains and others. Granted, White fits my beer pallette kinda perfectly, but you aren't the first person I've heard say "well, I can't go back" or "it's competing in a tough market and therefore something something and I can't buy it". Which I don't really get.

As near as I can tell, everyone is afraid they'll find out they were wrong about something in the 90's - but I found out: nope, this is actually a good beer. How nice.

J.S. said...

I'll try it! And I don't think it's just a matter of "I can't go back". It's a little more like having picked your favorite color from only 8 or 9 choices, then being shown a couple of hundred choices and being asked whether you still want to hold onto your original pick as being your favorite. Granted, you don't have to pick one favorite beer, but when you only drink so much beer in any given week, and you're rotating through even a group of selected favorites- that still puts less money in the pocket of the Celis brewery. Back in the day, Celis might have been one of my top 3 or 4 beers. Now, at best it's gonna be somewhere amongst a top twenty, I'm spending money on) In their favor, I think the beer drinking market itself has grown much bigger as the variety and interest has increased. But I wanna support those guys! Even back in the day, though Celis White was less of a favorite for me than Grand Cru (which I haven't seen back on the shelves yet).

The League said...

I admit, I was always kind of like... "why..?" when I drank Grand Cru. I don't need a beer that seems like it's trying to fight me (and will likely win). I also probably would be a bit more skeptical about some of their fruit-laced beers, but I dunno. I'd give them a shot. I recall liking Raspberry okay. But my favorites were White and Pale Rider.

RHPT said...

I don't intend this to be snarky. Is that a landline I spy in the background?

Also: Isn't Lucy of age in dog years?

The League said...

Yeah. We have a landline. I'm always much more surprised that more people don't have a second line. It's partly because cell service in our neighborhood was pretty terrible until about a year ago, partly because Jamie is actually in the house a good chunk of the day, partly because I really don't like taking calls on my cell at work if I can avoid it and I keep work and personal stuff pretty separated (plus my days don't usually tolerate a lot of phone time), partly because we like having a shared line where we can have parents or friends call us, partly because I don't actually have my phone on me all the time in the house but am usually in a room with a phone, partly because when we had Time Warner it would flash who was calling on the TV, and now have Google Fiber and shared voice mail and whatnot. It's not bad.

Lucy is geriatric in dog years, but all that aside, she doesn't need more excuses for bad behavior.