Above is a scan of the cover of the biography of a true giant of the Belgian Beer world, the King of Belgian Wheat Beer (White Beer, Witbier, Bière Blanche), and the founder of the famous Hoegaarden Brewery: Pierre Celis, from Hoegaarden. The book, entitled Pierre Celis, My Life, is by Raymond Billen (June, 2005, 141 pages (125x210mm), MMC-Bierpassie Magazine (www.beerpassion.com), ISBN 9-053-73015-X). Of course, "My Life" is an abbreviation for "My Very Full Life", something which Pierre has had and, indeed, continues to have, as you will readily gather from this Web page. As well as this English version of the book, it is also available in Dutch, in which it is entitled Brouwers Verkopen Plezier - Pierre Celis, My Life (ISBN 9-053-7301-41), i.e. the "Brewers Sell Pleasure" of the Dutch title is not included in the English version. The Bolo tie that Pierre is sporting, comes from his brewing days in Austin, Texas, USA; these, and further ones, in 2006, in the USA, are covered in this Web page.
Pierre Celis (1925-) from Hoegaarden:
Introduction, including News of InBev's Inexcusable Closure of the Hoegaarden Brewery
Let me begin by saying that such is the regard that I have for Pierre Celis, that the White Beer Travels website is dedicated to him, well jointly with someone else, the person whose pioneer writing on Speciality Beer lead me to him: Michael Jackson (1942-), "The Beer Hunter", "The Maven of Malt" (www.beerhunter.com) (see the Home page).
If asked, most beer drinkers could probably tell you that Hoegaarden is an unusual, cloudy, whitish beer, served in a chunky glass. To Speciality/Specialty/Craft Beers fans, Hoegaarden is synonymous with Belgian White Beer. In fact, Hoegaarden, pronounced "Who Garden", is a most pleasant and historic small town or village, postcode 3320, in the Belgian, Dutch-speaking Province of Flemish Brabant (Vlaams-Brabant), see the village's official website, (www.hoegaarden.be). It is in the eastern half of the Province, beyond Brussels (forty-seven kilometres/thirty miles away) and Leuven. Of course, Hoegaarden beer is named after the village, and half of the beer's logo is the village's Coat of Arms, see later.
Hoegaarden's population on the 1st of January, 2005 was 6,148. Its biggest employer at this time was InBev's Hoegaarden Brewery, which received 30,000 visitors each year, not just diehard beer enthusiasts, but general tourists, largely because of the fame of this one particular beer, the one simply called Hoegaarden. In late November, 2005, InBev (the former Interbrew), the owners of the Hoegaarden Brewery, announced that they were going to close it and divert the production of the world-famous Hoegaarden Wit (Hoegaarden White or Wheat [Beer]) to a factory of theirs in Jupille-sur-Meuse, near Liège, in the French-speaking part of Belgium. There is a section below which defines exactly what is meant by White Beer/Wheat Beer. Some general Tourist information (which includes how to get to Hoegaarden) is also provided below.
With the announcement by InBev of the closure of the Hoegaarden Brewery, which was scheduled to happen in September, 2006, and a website called "White Beer Travels", a White Beer Travels Web page covering White Beer's most famous name, Hoegaardier Pierre Celis, is a natural, so here it is! It was quite something to arrive in Hoegaarden in May, 2006, for a meeting with Pierre, and to immediately smell a brew on the go, and see the steam rising from what is a very large, modern brewery; it was hard to believe that it would be closed down by InBev, in a few months' time. Even though I knew that InBev were a load of bankers, I just could not see the economic sense of it, or the sheer immorality of the effect that it will have on the village and its community.
In this Web page you will learn of two breweries that Pierre set up in Hoegaarden, the first being opened eight years after an unbroken run of brewing in the village from at least the year 1455 to 1957. When he had re-established brewing in the village, a slogan that he came up with for his brewery was "Hoegaards Bier is Onsterfelijk", which means "Beer from Hoegaarden [village] is Immortal". I wonder whether InBev will steal this slogan, but change is slightly, to "Hoegaarden Bier is Onsterfelijk", which translates to "The beer named Hoegaarden, wherever it is manufactured, is Immortal".
But thankfully, Pierre's version of the slogan might come true, since, in December, 2006, inspired by Pierre's wonderful example, brewing commenced in a famous Hoegaarden pub, called 't Nieuwhuys, see below. And it is expected that Hoegaardier Albert Guilluy (1916-) is to set up a brewery in the village and produce a Wheat Beer, so incensed is he with InBev's actions; he will get technical help from Pierre. Pierre's father told Pierre to plant a tree the day before he dies. Perhaps he will brew a Wheat Beer instead, but, knowing Pierre, he might plant the tree, too.
Albert Guilluy's project is supported by Hoegaarden's Burgemeester (Mayor), Frans Huon, who for many years has been a great promoter of Hoegaarden's brewing heritage. Albert Guilluy was a teacher in Hoegaarden, but he clearly has a major interest in beer, as he was the Grootkanselier (Lord High Chancellor) of The Hoegaarden Beer Guild, "De Hoegaardse Biergilde", see below, from 1972 to 1983, and in Pierre's Biography, he is described as the man who drilled the eighteen metre well in Pierre's brewery in Stoopkensstraat, to provide it with brewing water. Albert will initially install a 30 to 35 hectolitre brewery in the village, but if sales take off, it will be expanded.
From this Web page, you will also learn that Pierre's recipes live on, not only elsewhere in Belgium, but also in the USA. And, his style of Wheat Beer has been copied throughout Belgium and beyond.
At one time Hoegaarden was awash with breweries, which produced Wheat Beer for hundreds of years, not just for its own inhabitants, but also for those in places quite some distance away. There were nineteen breweries in 1730, thirty-eight in 1758, fifteen in 1873 (and nine distilleries (stokerijen)), six breweries in 1914, and three in 1940. The village's water is perfect for brewing Wheat Beer, and the surrounding land is much suited to the growing of wheat and barley, and, for many centuries, although being within the boundaries of Brabant, Hoegaarden was an enclave of the Prince-Bishops of Liège, and thus enjoyed special excise privileges, which greatly encouraged brewing. The 1914 breweries were: Theophiel Ladeuze/Victor Brasseur (Stoopkensstraat) (closed 1947); Félicien Cipers (Tommestraat) (closed 1940); Louis Tomsin (Vroentestraat) (closed 1957); Jules Van Hagendoren (Stoopkensstraat); Oscar Van Hagendoren (Stoopkensstraat (huis Spie)); and Brasserie-Distillerie Loriers (Loriersstraat (moved to what a part of which, from 1925, was called "Hougardia", see below, at Stoopkensstraat 46, the future address of Pierre's De Kluis Brewery, and then InBev's Hoegaarden Brewery) (closed as Loriers in 1962). When the Brouwerij Tomsin, in Vroentestraat closed in 1957 - Louis Tomsin (1879-1967) had no children - brewing in Hoegaarden came to an end. The Tomsin Brewery (Oude Brouwerij Tomsin, Vieille Brasserie de Hoegaerde) was renowned for a Wheat Beer, "Oud Hoegaards Witbier" (Old Hoegaarden White Beer).
Pierre was born on the 21st of March, 1925, in a house on Hoegaarden's main square, the Gemeenteplein, but when he was one year old he moved to a house in Vroentestraat, where he has since lived for the rest of his life. His father, Ernest (Nest) Celis, was in the dairy trade, and Pierre followed in his footsteps; he essentially became a milk man/dairyman, but one who liked a good beer. Conversation in a pub in Hoegaarden in 1965, lamenting the closure, eight years earlier, of the Brouwerij Tomsin, spurred Pierre Celis into action; it made him determined to bring the brewing of White Beer back to the village. Interestingly, a lot of small breweries start up by using equipment that came from dairies. Brewing and milk processing both demand high levels of hygiene, so much of the knowledge that Pierre gained in his dairy would have been of direct relevance to his transition to brewing. In his milk man days, Pierre was involved in the "AA-Melk" milk quality organisation.
As already stated, at the time of the life-altering 1965 pub visit, Pierre produced another White Product of "AA" quality: Milk. Fortunately, he had a great interest in beer production; he had often helped out at the Tomsin Brewery, next door to where he lived. In the 1943 photo featuring Pierre, above left, Louis Tomsin, is on the left. The book from which the photo was sourced, states what various people in it are holding: one has a Roervork (literally a "Mixing Fork", i.e. a "Mashing Fork"); another has a Roerstok (literally a "Mixing Stick", i.e. a "Mashing Paddle"); Pierre is said to be holding a Stuyckmande, which looks like a whicker laundry basket (Stuikmand in modern Dutch, or Filtermand (means Filter Basket)). This is used to separate the wort from the spent grains, the filtered wort being ladled from inside the basket(s), into the brew kettle alongside (there is a second Stuikmand in the vessel), and one appears on a glass below. This is a fairly primitive alternative to the more modern filter plate,used by Pierre in his own first experimental brewery, see the photo, above right. As you can see from the photo on the left, the Tomsin Brewery vessel is labelled "CUVE MATIERE I", which is French for "Mash Tun I".
With the help of the retired brewing director of Hoegaarden's Loriers Brewery, Marcel Thomas, Pierre started off his own brewing career by first setting up an experimental brewery in a cowshed (koestal) across from his house, in Vroentestraat. Once he had perfected his recipe, he set up his own 25 hectolitre brewery, in the same building. The two photos at the top of this section are respectively the experimental mash tun/brew kettle and the first production mash tun (which is labelled "Roerkuip", the Dutch for Mash Tun (literally "Mixing Vessel"). Pierre's first brewery was based on second hand vessels (a red copper, wood insulated mash tun (photo at the top of this section on the right), and a red copper hot liquor tank and brew kettle) from the Stoombrouwerij Smeets (Smeets Steam Brewery), which was owned by Jos Smeets, in Zolder, in the Belgian Province of Limburg. The Smeets Brewery had closed following its takeover by the Brouwerij Haacht (www.haacht.com), in Boortmeerbeek, which is North of Leuven, in Flemish Brabant. Pierre paid 65,000 Belgian Francs for the whole brewery, this being the scrap value of the copper, and thus a fraction of the cost of new equipment.
Pierre got his operator's licence for his first commercial brewery, at Vroentestraat 1, on the 1st of July, 1966. However, he brewed the first batch of a Wheat Beer, called Oud Hoegaards Bier (Old Hoegaarden Beer) on the 13th of March, 1966 (the brewery officially opened as a one-man business on the 16th of March). By analogy with the Brouwerij Tomsin, which was named after its founder, August Tomsin 1820-87) (Louis Tomsin's grandfather), Pierre named his brewery, the Brouwerij Celis (often seen written as Br. Celis). In the photo, above left, Pierre is standing, with his wife, Juliette, at the entrance to this former "Celis Brewery", at Vroentestraat 1, in the courtyard of his house there. The photo on the right is the house's door knocker, which, as you can see, has a Mashing Paddle incorporated in it. The photos were taken by John White, in May, 2006.
In 1978, Pierre changed the name of his Celis Brewery to De Kluis, see below. Note that many books and Internet sources state that Pierre's first brewery was named De Kluis from its inception, in 1966; this is not the case. After the complete takeover by Interbrew, see below, the Brouwerij De Kluis became the Brouwerij Hoegaarden (Hoegaarden Brewery).
By the end of 1966, his first year of commercial brewing, Pierre had done fourteen brews, amounting to 350 hectolitres of beer, a figure that was to rise to 10,250 hectolitres in 1974. At the time he left what was to become Interbrew's Hoegaarden Brewery, in 1990, Pierre was producing 300,000 hectolitres of beer per year. Pierre had been exporting his beers for some years before then, well before the Interbrew involvement, for example, his beers had been available in the USA since 1975. Under InBev, Hoegaarden White/Wheat Beer has become a beer that is to be seen in many parts of the world, with almost a million hectolitres being produced by them, in 2005; unfortunately, as a result of their meddling, it is a significantly lesser beer to what it was before they got involved in its brewing. Yes, Interbrew, and their successor, InBev, really know how to take the Artis out of Artisanal Beer (Artis is Latin for Art or Skill).
Items from the Tomsin Brewery and a reconstruction of its "Proeflokaal" (Tasting Room), complete with old glasses and beer jug, can be seen today in a major tourist attraction featuring old buildings that have been moved from various parts of Belgium: the Provinciaal Domein (www.bokrijk.be), at Bokrijk, which is 8 kilometres (5 miles) from Hasselt (www.hasselt.be), the Capital of the Belgian Province of Limburg. Hasselt is forty-four kilometres (27½ miles) from Hoegaarden. The Tomsin Brewery equipment is installed in a brewery building, built in 1669, in Diepenbeek, near Hasselt, in the Haspengouw part of Limburg, called the Paenhuis (alternative spelling is Pannehuis or Paenhuys), which is an old name for Brouwerij (Brewery). It was dismantled in 1956, and transported to Bokrijk, and rebuilt there, and those who have seen it both here and in Diepenbeek swear that you cannot tell that it has been reconstructed. It was officially opened in 1959, with representatives from Diepenbeek present along with a good number of the members of the brewers' association "De Ridders van de Roerstok" (The Knights of the Mashing Paddle).
At first, Pierre only draught/tap beer. Initially, this was only for sale in Hoegaarden itself, but then, when the word spread, there was demand for it from nearby Tienen, then from Leuven, and then from as far away as Antwerp. This latter city is close to The Netherlands, and is visited by large numbers of Dutch people, so demand spread to their country and then to France, Italy and beyond. This meant that bottling the beer became an attractive option, so bottled as well as draught/tap Oud Hoegaards Bier was then made available. Above left, is the first label, which was superceded by the more elaborate ones alongside it. After glancing at these two later ones, you may ask yourself "Can one get drunk just looking at a Web page covering beer? Am I seeing double?" In fact, the labels are different. If you look at the wording on the right hand side of the one in the middle, the brewery's name is given as "Br. Celis", whereas "Br. De Kluis" is declared for the one on the right. (Br. is short for Brouwerij/Brewery). An explanation as to why there are seemingly two breweries brewing the same beer is given in the next paragraph. As can be seen, on all these labels, there is an alternative French name: Bière Blanche (White Beer). These labels were obtained from an excellent, unofficial website covering brewing in Hoegaarden, users.pandora.be/hoegaarden, produced by Bert Haentjens. It has many more reproductions of historic labels from breweries in Hoegaarden, and other breweriana, such as photos of old glasses, old bills, etc, etc. It also has lots and lots of information on the history of brewing in the village; it truly is an indispensable site for those interested in brewing, in Hoegaarden. As well as Dutch pages, it has French and English ones.
As already stated, the brewery named the Celis Brewery that Pierre installed in the cowshed, at Vroentestraat 1, in 1966, was the forerunner of the Hoegaarden Brewery, at Stoopkensstraat 46, in Hoegaarden, the one that InBev are to close. But before this, as a result of the formation of a partnership to raise money to purchase new premises to cope with the increasing demand for his beers, it had a name change, i.e. in 1978, the Brouwerij Celis was renamed the Brouwerij De Kluis, the latter meaning The Cloister, The Monastery, The Hermitage or The Safe Haven or Enclosure. The Winters Brothers, from The Netherlands, purchased a 45% share, and 5% of the business was purchased by a Trappist Monastery, the Sint Benedictus Abdij "De Achelse Kluis" (www.achelsekluis.org), near the town of Achel, in Belgian Limburg. The Monastery is right on the border of the Dutch Province of North Brabant, being in fact only 25 kilometres (16 miles) South of the Dutch city of Eindhoven. Certain sources state that the name of the Brouwerij De Kluis, in Hoegaarden, originates from a former 15th Century Benedictine Monastery's brewery that existed in the village, but this is not the case; there were two monastic breweries in Hoegaarden in the 15th Century, but they were not Benedictine ones. i.e. there was a Norbertine (Premonstratensian) one (De Grote Molen, Park Heverlee Abbey) and a Bogaarden (other spellings Beggaarden, Begarden, Begaerden) (Franciscan) one, established between 1445 and 1455, 't Paenhuys van 't Cloester (The Cloisters Brewery) (see above for information on a Hoegaarden bar/music venue called 't Paenhuys). Today, there is a Convent and a School on the site of the Abbey, called the Domein Mariadal, Klein Overlaar 3 (N221) (www.mariadal.be). Furthermore, the Brouwerij De Kluis did not get its name from the Trappist Monastery near Achel, which is eighty-eight kilometres (fifty-five miles) from Hoegaarden; in a meeting, in Hoegaarden, in May, 2006, Pierre stated that he got the name De Kluis from an area in Hoegaarden, called De Kluis, where Roman ruins forming an enclosure were found. Although it undoubtedly took place earlier, the earliest definitive record of brewing taking place in the village's archives (gemeentearchieven) is 1318.
Pierre produced an appropriate logo for De Kluis Brewery, which can be seen below, i.e. two overlapping shields, one with the hand of a Bishop holding a Staff (Crosier), and the other with a hand holding a Mashing Paddle. Note that initially, the "logo" was a single shield, the Bishop's Staff one; it can be seen on the old beer labels featured above. This logo is, in fact, the Blue and Gold (Yellow) Coat of Arms of the village of Hoegaarden (Wapen van Hoegaarden), which is derived from Seals dating from 1289. It is related to the fact that the village of Hoegaarden was once a possession of the Prince-Bishops of Liège. By later adding the shield that symbolises brewing, to produce a new logo for his brewery, Pierre was very cleverly spelling out that Hoegaarden was an important Beer Village (Bierdorp). The overlapping shields logo of Pierre Celis's De Kluis brewery now belongs to InBev. Will InBev still use it when the production of Hoegaarden is transferred to their factory in Jupille-sur-Meuse, even though the logo is historically all to do with brewing in the village of Hoegaarden, something which they are to end? Probably, for after all, these are the load of Bankers who chose a name for the 2004 merger of Interbrew and the Brazilian brewing giant, Ambev, without, evidently, doing the research normally done to find out whether it had a risqué meaning; it means a particular sex act in Antwerp slang! Note that before the announcement of the closure of the Hoegaarden Brewery, in Hoegaarden, the beer was already being manufactured elsewhere, i.e. from April, 2005, their affiliate in Russia, SUN Interbrew (САН Интербрю), www.suninterbrew.ru, commenced manufacturing Hoegaarden (Хугарден). There is even a rumour that when the Hoegaarden Brewery is closed, that the manufacture of Hoegaarden destined for Western Europe, will not take place in Jupille, but in an InBev (ИнБев) factory in Russia. Apparantly, saleable beer is not being manufactured in Jupille, which has delayed the scheduled September, 2006 closure of the brewery in Hoegaarden: it is too dark in colour!
In Dutch, an alternative name to Roerstok, see above, for a Mashing Paddle, is "Moutstok" (literally ("Malt Stick"), c.f. the Moutstock of the historic sub-name of The Hoegaarden Beer Guild, "De Hoegaardse Biergilde" (Die Edele Orde vanden Moutstock, The Noble Order of the Mashing Paddle), users.belgacom.net/hoegaardsebiergilde (the guild's excellent website is maintained by Jan Van Dender). Pierre is, of course, a member of the guild, where, as is the custom, his first name is used in its Latin form, Petrus; although Pierre is from the Dutch-speaking half of Belgium, he generally uses Pierre, the French form of Peter, rather than the Pieter, the Dutch form; the name on his birth certificate is Pierre. Note that the guild was formed in 1560; it was then the "Guld vande Paenheeren ende Wijnsetters" (Brewmasters' and Winegrowers' Guild); in those days, wine was produced in the Hoegaarden area (it still is, in nearby Tienen, see below). (In his biography, Pierre points out that many people once confused Hoegaarden with the Flemish Brabant grape village of Hoeilaert; clearly, his magnificent promotion of Hoegaarden's White Beer has changed all that.) The Hoegaarden Beer Guild has a magazine called 't Moutstockje; its editor (redacteur) is the journalist and author, Raymond Billen, who, as stated at the top of this page, is the author of Pierre's biography. In 2005, Raymond was made an Ereburger (Freeman) of Hoegaarden, as was Pierre, in December of the same year, fittingly only a couple of weeks after InBev's announcement of the closure of the Hoegaarden Brewery.
In 1979, with the help of the money invested by the Winters brothers and the Trappist Monastery, Pierre purchased, from the Loriers family, an old Distillery and Lemonade Factory, called Hougardia (formerly, it was a brewery and distillery, the Brasserie-Distillerie Loriers), at Stoopkensstraat 46. In this new location, which had a natural source of water below it, that was ideally suited to Wheat Beer brewing, Pierre installed a bigger (100 hectolitre) brewery, to cope with the increased demand for his beers; for a time, he was brewing in both locations. As per his first brewery, the equipment in the Stoopkensstraat Brouwerij De Kluis was second hand; this time it came from the Brouwerij De Sleutel, in Betekom, to the NE of Leuven, in Flemish Brabant. Whilst brewed at the new location, the main Wheat Beer continued to be called Oud Hoegaards Bier, see the labels, above, for this beer, from the Brouwerij Celis and the Brouwerij De Kluis, respectively. However, when Pierre's exports to the USA were becoming more significant in the early 1980s, it was marketed there as "The Original Hoegaarden White Ale", the "Hoegaarden White Ale" part of this then being back-translated to become its name in Belgium, Hoegaarden Witbier, which Interbrew subsequently shortened to just Hoegaarden, a name that can be used world-wide, without change. In Hoegaarden itself, the locals commonly refer to it as Blanchke, which clearly is related to Blanche, the French word for White.
Labels for Abbey Beers brewed by Pierre for a Trappist Monastery, near Achel: the Sint Benedictus Abdij "De Achelse Kluis"
For the Trappist Monastery, near Achel, De Kluis brewed a beer called De Achelse Kluis, this being, despite its label, above left, an Abbey Beer, rather than a Trappist Beer (Trappistenbier), since it was brewed for a Trappist Monastery, rather than having been brewed within a Trappist Monastery itself. This beer was renamed St. Benedict, in 1981, see the two alternative labels above centre and right, the first putting De Kluis Brewery in Achel itself! In 1987, Interbrew changed its name to just Benedict; it has not been produced for many years now, as Interbrew have concentrated on the manufacture of beers commissioned by another Abbey, its internationally available Abbey Beer range: the moderate Leffe beers. Note that, after stopping brewing in 1912, Achel recommenced brewing within the Monastery in 1998, to become the sixth Belgian Trappist Brewery. There was much input from Rochefort (www.trappistes-rochefort.com, White Beer Travels Web page), as Achel is its mother Monastery. Leffe is a Norbertine Abbey (www.abbaye-de-leffe.be), which can be visited, near Dinant, in the French-speaking Province of Namur, but the Leffe beers are fabricated in the InBev factory, in Leuven, the Capital of Flemish Brabant.
At one time, Leuven (Louvain, in French), and the area surrounding it, was Hoegaarden's main rival when it came to the brewing of Wheat Beer. Leuven is associated with Saint Peter, who gives his name to many of the products associated with the town; its White Beer was thus called Pieterman or, more commonly, Peeterman. The following are former Leuven Breweries that produced Wheat Beers called Peeterman: Lovania (closed in 1935); La Vignette and La Fleur d'Or (both closed in 1940); Van Tilt (closed in 1950); De Eendracht (closed in 1968); Breda (closed in 1971); and Artois itself (merged with Piedboeuf in 1988 to become Interbrew), see its label reproduction below. The Domus Brew Pub and Restaurant (www.domusleuven.be), in Leuven, produces or commissions Wheat Beers, with names such as Leuvense Witte, Leuvens Witbier and Leuvendige Witte, i.e. none are called Peeterman. However, note that a number of brewers with a beer called Peeterman, marketed it as Blanche de Louvain, in the French-speaking half of Belgium, this being the direct equivalent of Leuvense Witte and Leuvens Witbier.
There was also a brewery called St-Pieter/St-Pierre, which closed in 1970, in Neerijse-Huldenberg, just to the SW of Leuven that produced a number of Wheat Beers, although none were called Peeterman. (A great judge of beer fondly remembers a "Double White" Beer that was produced by another brewery, at Beekstraat 20, in Neerijse, De Kroon (closed in 1989), called Dubbel Wit Neerysche.) Involved in the construction of this brewery, in 1898, was the Great-Grandfather of the wonderful Lambic Brewer and Blender, Frank Boon (www.boon.be). Frank was involved in the brewery before it closed; Frank tells me that the old brewery is still inside the building, but the health and safety authorities would not allow it to be used again; it would have to be replaced by a modern stainless steel brewery. The only beer that I have been able to trace with Pieterman in its name, is "Pieterman Leuven", which was brewed by De "Proef" Brouwerij (BVBA Andelot (www.proefbrouwerij.com), in Lochristi-Hijfte, near Ghent, in East Flanders. This was a one-off brew for the twentieth anniversary of the Pieterman Bridge Club, in Leuven (www.bcpieterman.be).
Amazingly, in March, 2006, that load of Bankers, InBev announced that they were to produce a 4% ABV Wheat Beer called Peeterman Artois, see the label reproduction, above left, as part of their "Brasserie Artois" range; I wonder whether it will be manufactured in their factory in Leuven, or in the former Piedboeuf one in Jupille-sur-Meuse? On the right, is a label for the beer that InBev claim it is to be modelled on, which was produced by Artois in Leuven, prior to it becoming part of Interbrew. The ABV is not declared, but the "Cat II" between Artois and Louvain means that it is not a strong beer, certainly well below 5% ABV. Note that the various Peeterman beers had different strengths, for example, the Peeterman from Verlinden was declared to be "Cat I" on its label. as was the Pierre Celis one, see its label above, which has "Categororie I" on it. Thanks once again to Casimir Elsen for providing me with scans of these old Peeterman labels.
Leuven (www.leuven.be) is the Oxford and Cambridge of Belgium; it has a stunning Town Hall (Stadhuis, Hôtel de Ville), in the town's main square, the Grote Markt, which gets the maximum three stars (worth a special journey) in the Michelin Green Guide (www.viamichelin.com); also on the main square is the impressive Sint-Pieterskerk (St Peter's Church). A good bet for accommodation in Leuven ia the Hotel de Biestpoort, at Brusselsestraat 110, tel 016 20 24 92, www.hotelbiestpoort.be; its bar, which has over seventy beers, is open on Monday to Saturday from 8am to 11pm.
At around the same time that Pierre was producing the Abbey Beer for the Achel Trappist Monastery, he also produced one called Vader Abt (Father Abbot) or Vader Abt's Bier, which had previously been called Gravenbier/Gravinnebier (note that, although having a monastic name, Vader Abt, is name after a partner in the former Thierbrau chain of bars, called Abts). However, a beer that Pierre first produced in 1976 proved to be a real winner: Hoegaarden Grand Cru (7.5%, later 8.7%). This was produced as a response to the fact that sales of the 5% Wheat Beer dropped in Winter; it was felt that if something stronger was on offer, that people would be interested. It was an immediate hit, which is not surprising since this "Spiced Tripel" proved to be a marvellous beer. A local in Hoegaarden surmised that the Château-like building on its label was one in Hoegaarden, close to Pierre's home, the "Villa des Lilas" (Bogaerts Mansion), at Kloosterstraat 31, which is next to a municipal building called De Polder, at number 29. However, in his biography, Pierre makes it very clear that he got it from a wine label (a Grand Cru one?).
Another beer produced by Pierre in 1982 very quickly proved to be a winner: a dark, rich, spiced beer called De Verboden Vrucht (Le Fruit Défendu, The Forbidden Fruit) (initially 8%, now 8.8%). Not only was this a great beer, it also had a most memorable label, a take on a 1600 painting, "Adam and Eve in Paradise", by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), which hangs in the Rubens House (Rubenshuis), in Antwerp, in Belgium. In the painting, the world's first couple are each eating an Apple, but for the beer label (and the beer's special glass) the Apples are replaced by glasses of Beer. I say "was", but, in fact the beer is still produced, as is Hoegaarden Grand Cru, but they have become much lesser beers after Interbrew/InBev got their hands on them. The idea for Verboden Vrucht came about after Pierre, in 1980-2, produced a beer called Diesters Bier for annual festivities in the town of Diest, in the NE corner of Flemish Brabant. This was originally brewed by the Cerckel Brewery in the town, who had been taken over by Haacht, so Pierre was "Forbidden" from using the name Diesters. He dreamed about this ban one night and came up with a new name for the beer: Forbidden Fruit.
Whether any of the beers that InBev has inherited from Pierre are good or bad, is however, irrelevant to me today, as, on principal, I do not let InBev beers from anywhere around the world, which include Draught Bass, brewed in England, and Beck's, brewed in Germany, pass my lips, apart from just once, when a new one comes along, so that I can objectively talk about its level of mediocrity, for example, the very ordinary and hideously over-priced Artois Bock, that they inflicted on us in the UK, in 2005; in a Brew Pub near my home (Willy's, 17 High Cliff Road, Cleethorpes, DN35 8RQ), in May, 2006, it was £3.50 a pint, versus the £1.69 for the far superior Willy's Original Bitter. Ironically, the beer that this Web page is largely about, what is now InBev's Hoegaarden, will never be partaken of by me again. Thankfully, Pierre has top-class replacements for it, which I am able to regularly enjoy: very much so!
In 1996, Interbrew introduced an amber beer, which is still made by InBev, called Hoegaerdse Das (5%). In fact, this is the name of a beer that was first created by Marcel Thomas, at the Loriers Brewery, in 1931. As stated above, Marcel helped Pierre start his first brewery, in 1966. Marcel created the beer in the Loriers Brewery, based on a beer that he had tasted during a stay in England, when he visited a number of breweries. Note that Loriers Brewery was also called De Grote Brouwerijen van Hoegaarden (Les Grandes Brasseries de Hoegaerde); Hoegaarden is Hoegaerde in French. Interestingly, although Pierre did not brew Hoegaerdse Das, he did use its yeast from Loriers for his brews from 1965, and continued to do so until Loriers was closed by the Leuven-based Artois (the forerunner of Interbrew) in 1962. He then sourced his yeast from the Mont-Saint-Guibert Brewery (closed by Interbrew in 1995), who used the Das yeast for their Vieux Temps. After a fire in his brewery, in 1985 (covered in the next section), Pierre sourced his yeast from the Brewing School of the University of Louvain-la-Neuve, in Wallonian Brabant (Brabant wallon, Waals-Brabant).
Artois/Interbrew/InBev Sadly Get Involved
Please note that the inclusion on this Web page of the above logo for InBev's Hoegaarden White Beer is anything but a White Beer Travels endorsement of it; it is merely here to augment the text. This logo was on the wall of a pub called the Café d'Alost, in the town of Aalst, in the Belgian Province of East Flanders (Oost-Vlaanderen). The photo was taken by John White, in March, 2006.
In 1985, there was a fire in the brewery on Stoopkensstraat, and in 1986 the Winters brothers sold their share in the company to an investment group; the Achel Trappist Monastery had severed its financial connection with the brewery in the year of the fire. As a consequence of the level of insurance cover (40 Million Belgian Francs compared to the estimated rebuild cost of 280 Million Belgian Francs), the effect of the fire was that, in 1987, the brewery was sold to the Leuven-based Artois (who became Interbrew on the 1988 merger with Piedboeuf, and InBev after the 2004 merger with Ambev), with Pierre initially having a forty percent holding, but which he later sold to Artois. Following the acquisition, Artois/Interbrew invested heavily in new equipment and, amazingly, they registered the name Hoegaarden as a trademark (see the registered trademark symbol, ® , at the end of the word Hoegaarden, in the logo above), despite the fact that the village, which was founded over a thousand years ago, in 981, has been named Hoegaarden since the 12th Century. You would not think it possible that the name Hoegaarden could be registered by a company, but apparently it can. The logo can also be seen on the special glass for Hoegaarden, for which there is a reproduction further down this page; click here to see it. Background on the logo's design is given above.
InBev have an appalling habit of doing nasty things, but this closing of the Hoegaarden Brewery takes the biscuit. It will have a devastating effect on the village, far beyond the jobs lost, and confirms yet again that InBev have absolutely no regard for Belgium's fabulous brewing heritage, by putting an end to centuries of brewing in Hoegaarden. The equivalent of moving the production of the beer to Jupille and still calling it Hoegaarden just would not be tolerated in the wine world. Can you imagine someone making a registered trademark of the name Pauillac, the town in the Bordeaux wine region of France that has some of the most prestigious vineyards in the world, such as Château Latour, Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Lafite, and then setting up a vineyard in a lesser area of France and still declaring the wine produced in it "Appellation Pauillac Contrôlée"? No, it would be out of the question, but why is it possible in the beer world? Annoyingly, there are other prominent examples, such as: Anheuser-Busch calling their mediocre rice brew, Budweiser, despite the fact that Budweiser means "From Budweis", i.e. from the town of »eské Budžjovice, in The Czech Republic (»eskŠ republika), which produces the far superior Budweiser Budvar (Budžjovickż Budvar) beer (by analogy, in the wine world, Bernkasteler is a protected word, strictly meaning wine coming from around the town of Bernkastel on the Mosel, in Germany); and SABMiller brewing the once-great Pilsner Urquell in Poland, even though "Pilsner Urquell" means "Pilsen Beer from the Original Source", Pilsen (PlzeÚ) being another town in The Czech Republic. It is interesting how it is huge companies such as InBev, SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch, which produce very moderate beers, that get up to these insidious tricks. Of course, being InBev, they will not do the decent thing, i.e. Hoegaarden Wit will not be renamed Jupille Blanche (Jupille White or Wheat [Beer]), when its production is moved to their factory in Jupille-sur-Meuse. Interestingly, in a number of beer menus in bars in French-speaking areas, prior to the transfer of the brewing of Hoegaarden to Jupille-sur-Meuse, the beer was often listed as "Blanche de Hoegaarden" (White Beer from Hoegaarden). I wonder if it will be described as "Blanche de Jupille" (White Beer from Jupille) once it is manufactured alongside the very moderate Pils, Jupiler, in Jupille-sur-Meuse?
Following the announcement of the closure by InBev of the Hoegaarden Brewery, Pierre Celis declared that InBev are not brewers, but bankers. When Pierre brewed Hoegaarden, as well as Wheat, there was also Oats in the mash, but InBev's predecessors, Interbrew, removed the Oats, changed the Hops (Pierre used Saaz, for mild bitterness, from The Czech Republic, and Goldings, for aroma, from Kent, England), did away with the 45/55/73oC temperature régime in the mash tun, significantly reduced the lagering (secondary fermentation) time, and introduced high-gravity brewing, i.e. brewing to a strength of 10% and diluting down to 5% (now 4.9%), the strength that Pierre originally brewed the beer at conventionally, this detrimenting the aroma of the beer. In other words, InBev produce a different, inferior beer, but with the same name as Pierre's original classic. How do these people sleep at night? They now even sell it as Hoegaarden Citrons (3%), ready mixed with Lemon and Lime, and as Hoegaarden Rosé (4.5%), which probably contains juice obtained from Red Fruits such as Raspberries.
The disgraceful quality-reducing antics covered above, and the increased meddling in the day to day operation of the brewery, following the merging of Artois with Piedboeuf, to form Interbrew, greatly contributed to Pierre and Interbrew parting company, in 1990. But Pierre, although at the normal retiring age of sixty-five, did not put his feet up in front of the fire. He came up with a plan to recreate his original beer in the USA, as Celis White, and thus introduce the USA to Belgium's rich brewing heritage. As he had friends in Austin, Texas (www.austintexas.org), and because, like the water in Hoegaarden, its water has a high Calcium content, which is especially suited to Wheat Beer brewing, Pierre chose to set up his own brewery in Austin, giving it the same name, albeit in English, as his brewery, the Brouwerij Celis, that he opened in 1966, in Hoegaarden, see above. The first brew was on March, the 19th, 1992. The Celis Brewery, the first operated by a Belgian in the USA, and the first American brewery to produce a Wheat Beer, was at 2431 Forbes Drive. In Austin, for his Celis White, Pierre used hard, red winter wheat, grown around Luckenbach, a town close to Austin, in the Texas Hill Country. As per the two breweries that Pierre had set up in Hoegaarden, the brew house vessels for his new brewery, in Austin, were second hand; they came from the closed-down Dendria Brewery, in Onkerzele-Geraardsbergen, in the Belgian Province of East Flanders (Oost-Vlaanderen).
Pierre increased production in Austin to a peak level of 22,830 barrels per year, but unfortunately, in 1995, his co-investors sold their share of the brewery in Austin, to Miller Brewing, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, who became majority sharehlders. Miller brewed Celis Beers for a while, but carried out the typical of meddling of a big company only interested in profit, such as replacing the Czech Hops with inferior ones, etc, etc. In 2000, Miller purchased the rest of the shares, before closing the brewery, in 2001. During his involvement with the Celis Brewery, Pierre visited Austin frequently. In Belgium, at this time, he devised new beers to be brewed under license, such as Wheat Beers and Fruit Beers derived from them, and the marvellous Grottenbier, see below. Michael Jackson, in a chapter in the "Testimonials" section of Pierre's biography, describes Pierre's involvement with Miller as "a bruising encounter with the beer that should have made Milwaukee infamous".
The Celis brand name, in the USA, is now owned by Bobby Mason's "Michigan Brewing Company", in Webberville, Michigan, USA, www.michiganbrewing.com (click on the Celis White label to reach a link to the Celis White timeline, which gives the history of brewing in Hoegaarden, from 1453 (a brewery in a Benedictine Monastery is mentioned). The Michigan Brewing Company brew Celis White, and Celis Raspberry, Pale Bock, Grand Cru, Pale Ale and Dubbel Ale, alongside their own beers. In Europe, Pierre can market beers with the Celis name, which he does, these beers being brewed for him, in Belgium, by Bios/Van Steenberge (www.vansteenberge.com), in Ertvelde, East Flanders. In the USA, the Van Steenberge Celis White, was marketed as Ertvelds Wit. These Bios-brewed beers are also available in Belgium, where they too have the name "Brussels", for example, Brussels Kriek (Cherry), Brussels Framboos (Framboise, Raspberry) and Brussels Perzik (Pêche, Peach). These fruit beers, which have the Wheat Beer as a base, are all 3.5% ABV, apart from the Peach one, which is 4%.
However, the Austin, Texas Celis White did not have the Texas Flag on it, but a shield that has some resemblance to the Coat of Arms of the village of Hoegaarden, as per one of the shields of the Hoegaarden White Beer logo, but it has a red, rather than a blue, background to the arm of the Bishop holding a staff. Clearly, this denotes that the beer originates from the Belgian village of Hoegaarden. This "Hoegaarden Coat of Arms" shield is also the second shield on the Michigan Brewing Celis White, i.e. both US Celis Whites have the same pair of shields.
The Peach Beer was to be made with both juice and whole fruit grown around the Texas Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, which is seventy miles (112 kilometres) West of Austin. As per the Celis White days, the wheat used in the brews would come from around Luckenbach, in the Texas Hill Country. The Cherries would come from Belgium and the Raspberries from Europe. It has been reported that the Cherries would come from Wisconsin, the Miller Brewing state, but this would definitely not be the case.
The "Brussels" beers were to be brewed at Brad Farbstein's "Real Ale Brewing Company", 405 3rd Street, Blanco, Texas, tel 830 833 2534, www.realalebrewing.com. Blanco, which is Spanish for "White", is in the Texas Hill Country. The town gets its name from the River Blanco (Rio Blanco) that flows through it; the river was given this name by members of the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo's Expedition in 1721, because of the the white limestone along its banks and on the river bed, the latter making the water appear to be white.
The beers were to be brewed to Pierre's recipes by Real Ale's Tim Schwartz, who is recognised to be a most creative brewer; Pierre would supervise the initial brews. Tim was previously the brewer at the now-closed Bitter End Bistro and Brewery, in Austin. Real Ale was opened in 1996 by Charles Conner; his original brew house was replaced with a higher capacity Canadian brew house, just prior to any commencement of the brewing of Pierre's brews; Pierre shipped part of a German Krones bottling plant to Texas for the new beers; this was second hand from John Martin's, in Belgium, who had used it for beers such Guinness and their Gordon Scotch. Pierre cannot use the word Celis on the front labels of the Brussels beers destined for the domestic US market (because the brand name Celis is owned, in the USA, by the Michigan Brewing Company, see above), although the Celis provenance is explained on the back labels of them.
One outcome of Pierre's days in Austin, is that his daughter, Christine Celis, is permanently resident there, where she would be responsible for the sales, marketing and PR of Pierre's second venture in the USA, the Brussels beers, which, with no import costs, would be significantly less expensive than when sourced in Belgium. Christine also has other "Belgian" operations in Austin; she imports the top class Daskalidès (www.daskalides.be) brand of Belgian Chocolates, and has a place, in Austin called "Hill Country Coffee", a drive-in which has, er, coffee, and non-alcoholic drinks and some Belgian cuisine.
Why all the "woulds" in this section, rather than "wills"? Apparently, Texas or USA law or whatever, stops Pierre from marketing the Brussels beers, as he is still registered as a brewer in Texas or the USA. Thus, the Blanco brewing of Pierre Celis beers is no longer going to happen. Should this situation change, it will be reported here.
Another enterprise that Pierre undertook, after severing contact with Interbrew, was the production of a remarkable beer: Grottenbier Bruin, a 6.5% dark beer which he introduced in 1999. This beer was inspired by Pierre's visits to Champagne Caves in France. Note that this beer preceded the later, highly publicised introduction of "Champagne Beers", such as Bière Brut, from Malheur (www.malheur.be), in 2001, and DeuS, from Bosteels (www.bestbelgianspecialbeers.be), in 2002. Pierre initially granted the licence to brew Grottenbier to De Smedt, in Opwijk, but it is now brewed by the Brouwerij St. Bernard (www.sintbernardus.be, White Beer Travels Web page), in Watou, in the Belgian Province of West Flanders; Pierre transferred the license as a consequence of De Smedt being taken over by Heineken, who renamed the brewery in Opwijk, the Affligem Brewery, after the range of Abbey beers of that name which are brewed there. For the same reason, the European version of Celis White, is now brewed by Bios/Van Steenberge, rather than De Smedt, where it was first brewed after the return from Austin, Texas.
When first produced, Grottenbier's conditioning (lagering) took place in the Mergelgrotten van Kanne (Kanne Marl Caves) in Riemst (www.riemst.be), in the Belgian Province of Limburg; the beer was originally labelled Grottenbier Kanne (Kanne Cave Beer). The caves are a major tourist attraction, guided tours being available in English (tel 012 45 19 30). The man-made caves are big enough for cars to be driven in them, which is done. Kanne is in the valley of the river Jeker, which joins the river Maas (Meuse), in Maastricht, which is close by, across the border in the Dutch Province of Limburg. Indeed, the caves are also accessible from the nearby Dutch town of Daelhem/Valkenburg aan de Geul, (www.ondergrondsvalkenburg.nl, www.feestgrot.nl), both the Belgian and Dutch access points being detailed on Grottenbier bottle labels.
The temperature in the caves remains at a constant 11oC; the relative humidity is always around 95%. Whilst maturing in the caves, the bottles were regularly turned, as per the famous remuage step carried out on bottles of Champagne, maturing in caves in Champagne, in France. The beer itself is rich, its sweetness perfectly balanced by spicing. Note, however, that current bottles of Grottenbier are no longer matured in the caves, this being reflected in a change of wording on the labels; the first labels had "Gerijpt in de mergelgrotten ..."/"Mûri dans les souterrains ... (Matured in the Marl Caves ...), but this is absent from current labels. One can still sample the beer in the caves, but it is no longer matured there.
In December, 2006, Pierre launched a draught/tap version of Grottenbier, in a pub quite close to the Sint Bernard brewery, in Ieper (Ypres): The Times, Korte Torhoutstraat 7, tel 057 20 99 30. The draught version is brewed to the same recipe as the original bottled version, but, of course, as per current the current bottled version, there is no cave maturation.
Note that, in 1985, Pierre purchased some caves for beer maturation, called Folz-les-Caves, in Orp-Jauche, in Wallonian Brabant (Brabant-Wallon), seventeen kilometres (10½ miles) from Hoegaarden, but bureaucratic problems prevented this, so he switched to the caves in Riemst, further way, and finally sold the Folz-les-Caves ones to the Wallonian Region, as the licence to mature beer in them just never materialised. Note that the original bottle label on Grottenbier stated that it was brewed for a company called Folz-les-Caves. Pierre did mature something in the caves in Orp-Jauche, when he owned them: a cheese called Hoegaardse Kouterhof, the latter being the name of a Hoegaarden bar/restaurant that Pierre set up which is covered below.
Pierre's biography, featured at the top of this Web page, has some marvellous archive photos supplied by Miel Mattheus, who worked with Pierre, in Hoegaarden. There are also photos taken in 2005 in the former cowshed next to Pierre's house, in Hoegaarden, of the same vessels featured in two photos above. In each, Pierre is with Chris Bauweraerts, from the Achouffe Brewery (www.achouffe.be); Pierre brewed La Célisette (using the original Hoegaarden Grand Cru recipe), in Achouffe's Brew Pub, Les 3 Fourquets, (www.les3fourquets.be), in 2005. When the Achouffe Brewery was first set up in 1982, Pierre provided much advice to Chris and Achouffe's co-founder, Pierre Gobron (Chris's Brother-in-Law).
In the photo, above left, from left to right are: Achouffe Brewery's joint owner, Chris Bauweraerts; John White; and Pierre Celis. It was taken by Fred Waltman, in October, 2003, in the bar/restaurant alongside the Achouffe brewery. Fred is responsible for a number of excellent websites, including one on beer in Franconia, Germany (www.franconiabeerguide.com) and Los Angeles, California (www.labeer.com). In the photo, above right, from left to right are: John White; Brothers Pierre and Antoine of the Rochefort Trappist Monastery (Abbaye de Notre-Dame de St Rémy) (www.trappistes-rochefort.com); and Pierre Celis. It was taken by American beer writer, Chuck Cook, see below, in front of the Rochefort Trappist Brewery, in October, 2003. The White Beer Travels Web page, covering Rochefort, has more photos featuring Pierre.
Hoegaarden is only five kilometres (just over three miles) from the famous sugar town of Tienen (Tirlemont, in French) (www.tienen.be). However, at one time, there were a number of sugar manufacturers in Hoegaarden as well. One was owned by the Dumont brewing family, who had a Farm-Brewery on Stoopkensstraat next to the Hoegaarden Brewery, which today is the Taverne Kouterhof, this being covered in the next paragraph. The Dumont's sugar factory was called La Sucrerie de la Ghète; it was on Ernest Ourystraat. Pierre actually purchased the building from its then owners, the Tiense Suikerraffinaderij (www.tiensesuiker.com), for bottling and lagering. I am not sure what its present status is, but InBev have a bottling plant in the Hoegaarden-Altenaken industrial estate; at the same time that InBev announced the brewery closure, they stated that this bottling plant will remain open, and indeed, that bottling previously carried out in the brewery, will be transferred to Altenaken.
What will become of the Kouterhof and "The Brewer" statue, when the brewery closes, only time will tell. In any event, should you, like me, not want to patronise an InBev establishment, then other drinking and eating options are given below, in the section covering the village of Hoegaarden for the Beer Hunter. The Taverne Kouterhof is on the corner of P Vanmolstraat, which, in fact, has been renamed "Hoegaarden White Beer Avenue".
Pierre Celis saying "Celis"
In a brewery, most beers are produced by converting the Starch in a grain cereal into Sugar during the mashing phase of brewing, which, in a later phase of the process (fermentation), is converted into Alcohol and Carbon Dioxide, CO2. The most popular cereal for brewing beer is Malt, which is also called Malted Barley. To produce Malt, Barley (Hordeum Vulgare) is steeped in water to induce its germination, after a few days of which, the germination is stopped by applying heat, the end product being Malt; Barley does not have the enzymes required to convert the Starch in the Barley to Fermentable Sugar, during the mashing phase of the brewing process, whereas Malt does, which is one of the main reasons why it is the most commonly used cereal in brewing. Wheat Beer, as you would expect, is produced from Wheat. The Wheat used can be malted or unmalted. Should the Wheat used be unmalted, because of the need for the enzymes to convert the Starch into Sugar - Wheat not having the required enzymes - a Wheat Beer is almost always made with a mix of Malt and Wheat, in the mash. It would be possible to produce a 100% Wheat Beer from Unmalted Wheat, using Industrial Enzymes (click here for a White Beer Travels Web page covering these), but Wheat, unlike Barley, does not have a husk, so the use of Wheat (malted or unmalted) without Malted Barley in the brewing process causes filtration major problems, so Wheat is almost always used in conjunction with Malt. Note also that even Malted Wheat, depending on the kilning method used can have quite a low enzyme activity, so if the proportion of such Wheat in the mash was very high, then Industrial Enzymes may be required, as they surely would if the Wheat used was unmalted; click here for information on a top class English Real Ale that was produced using such enzymes, with 80% of the cereals in the mash being Wheat.
Wheat Beer is often cloudy white, in the glass, and usually has a dense white, long-lasting head, which is the reason why the term White Beer is also used. Click here to go up this page for an image of a glass of Hoegaarden, which illustrates what a cloudy Belgian Wheat Beer looks like. Such a beer is, in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, called a Witbier, whereas, in France and in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, it is referred to as Bière Blanche, and, in Germany, as a Weizen (Wheat) or a Weissbier (Weißbier) , i.e. a White Beer, or simply a Weiße, c.f. Schneider Weisse, for which there is an illustration of a bottle and its glass at the top of this page. Indeed, the guardian of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (www.oed.com), informs one that "Wheat" is derived from an old Teutonic/Germanic word meaning " White". Wheat is Tarwe in Belgian, so Wheat Beers are often called Tarwebier in Dutch-speaking Belgium. Froment is French for Wheat, hence Bière de Froment is encountered in Wallonia and in France.
In Belgium, the Wheat used in the mash is usually unmalted, but in Germany, the famous German Beer Purity Law, the Reinheitsgebot, demands that the Wheat be malted. Belgian Wheat Beers are invariably cloudy, whereas, in Germany, there are both cloudy Wheat Beers and ones with no sediment in the bottle or keg. Clear German Wheat Beers often have Kristall in their name, whereas ones with a sediment frequently have Hefe in their name, this being the German word for Yeast. Note that one often hears the cloudiness of Belgian Wheat Beers being described as a "protein haze"; the haze in a typical Belgian Wheat Beer is, in fact, essentially due to protein, and thus will disappear if the beer is warmed up enough. To the left of Pierre's head on the reproduction of the book cover at the top of this page, there is an example of a dark (Dunkel) Wheat Beer, as well as the normal Pale (Hell) ones, i.e. three 4.9% beers from the Würzburger Hofbräu Brewery, in the Baroque city of Würzburg, in Germany (www.wuerzburger-hofbraeu.de) - Julius Echter Hefe-Weissbier Hell, Julius Echter Hefe-Weissbier Kristallklar and Julius Echter Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel. Note that one can detect Cloves in these beers, but this is not the case with Belgian White Beers. This is due to very small concentrations of phenols characteristically produced when fermenting with Yeast from the famous Weihenstephan brewing establishment in Freising, in Bavaria.
Note that the yeast in German bottled Wheat Beers is still active, which allows secondary fermentation to take place in the bottle. However, this is not necessarily the case with all Belgian Wheat Beers. Pierre's Wheat Beer does have active yeast in the bottle, hence the "Bier op Gist" (literally "Beer on Yeast) and the French equivalent, "Bière sur Lie" ("Beer on its Lees") on the labels, see above. Note, however, that to avoid having to much Lactic Acid sourness in the beer, the action of Lactobaccili, see below, is curbed by flash pasteurisation, prior to the addition of fresh yeast for the secondary fermentation in the bottle. Note that after the Wheat Beer base that is used to make Pierre 's Fruit Beers has no yeast added after pasteurisation, a process which kills off yeast cells. Thus, when fruit juice is mixed with the 5% Wheat Beer, the resulting Fruit Beer has a lower alcohol than the base beer. This may seem obvious, but if there was active yeast in the base Wheat Beer, this would ferment the sugar in the fruit juice, which, depending on the concentration of sugar in the juice, could even mean that the alcohol content of the final Fruit Beer will end up higher than the base Wheat Beer that it was produced from. It is a common misconception that the permanent haze in Hoegaarden Wheat Beer is yeast, but it is essentially due to protein. I am not sure of the active yeast status of the kegged version of Hoegaarden throughout the world. In markets that are not used to handling beers that are still fermenting, and thus producing carbon dioxide that will increase the pressure inside the kegs, it is possible that yeast for a second fermentation in the keg is not added, or the amount added is so low, that there is not a significant pressure rise in the keg.
The Mash for Hoegaarden Wheat Beer was originally 50% Malt, 45% Wheat and 5% Oats, but Interbrew changed this to 55% Malt, 45% Wheat. The Oats produced an oily smoothness, that is not present in the dumb downed product. German Wheat Beers are unspiced (if you don't count Hops as a spice), but Belgian Wheat Beers are classically spiced with Coriander Seeds and the dried peel of Curaçao Oranges, both of which are coursely ground. In the early Pierre Celis version, there was rumour of a third spice, which Michael Jackson conjectures that, if it existed, could be Cumin Seeds (Komijn in Dutch). However, in my interview with Pierre, in May, 2006, he stated emphatically, that no Cumin or any other spices apart from the two Wheat Beer classics, were used in his Wheat Beer brews. At this meeting Pierre also stated that another oft-reported ingredient of his original beer, was never used: Spelt (Spelt in Dutch, Épautre in French) (Triticum spelta, an ancient and distant cousin to modern wheat (Triticum aestivum), www.spelt.com).
Wheat Beers from around the world, including Belgian ones, typically have a relatively low hop bitterness, i.e. under 20 EBU.
The primary fermentation phase of the brewing process for Wheat Beer is analogous to that used for Real Ales in the UK and the majority of the Speciality Beers in Europe and the rest of the world, i.e. it takes place at a temperature of the order of 25oC, with a top-cropping yeast, as opposed to around 8oC, with a bottom cropping yeast, that is used for the production of Pilsener-style beers (called Lagers in the UK).
Note that there is another famous style of Belgian Beer, in which a significant proportion of Wheat is used in the mash: Lambic and its derivatives such as Gueuze and Lambic-based Fruit Beers, for example Kriek (Cherry) and Framboise (Raspberry). By "law", these must be produced with at least thirty percent Wheat in the mash. These are not, however, regarded as Wheat Beers, and, although the best ones have a sediment in the bottle, they are usually poured in such a way as to be clear in the glass. Note that the fermentation stage for Lambic Beers is called spontaneous, since no yeast is pitched in the fermenter; it is wild yeasts in the air that are responsible for the fermentation; click here to see the White Beer Travels Web page, covering the Cantillon Brewery, in Brussels (www.cantillon.be), for more details. At one time, Belgian Wheat Beers also used spontaneous fermentation, rather than the present-day top fermentation, using pitched yeast, and to counter the extreme tartness of such beers, herbs and spices were added, the ones that became most popular being the Coriander and Curaçao that are used today in the "conventionally" fermented Belgian Wheat Beers.
In Germany, as well as the area round Munich, and elsewhere in Bavaria, Wheat Beers of renown are produced in Berlin, i.e. the famous Berliner Weisse, which is a low alcohol, extremely tart beer, produced by yeast fermentation and the use of Lactobacilli, such as Lactobacillus Delbruckii. To counteract the tartness, it is often served with a Schuss, a sweet fruit (typically Raspberry) or herbal (typically Woodruff) syrup. Belgian Wheat Beers can have a certain amount of lactic tartness, but not to the extent of a classic Berliner Weisse.
Because of Wheat's head retention properties, there are also many "Malt" brews produced with a small proportion of Wheat (typically below 5%) in the mash.
A number of information sources have been dipped into during the preparation of this Web page, including: Bert Haentjens website, see above; the already referred to biography featured at the top of this page; the already mentioned website of De Hoegaardse Biergilde (The Hoegaarden Beer Guild), maintained by Jan Van Dender, see above; Chuck Cook's excellent article "Pierre Celis. A Conversation in Hoegaarden", that appeared in the October/November, 2005 edition of Celebrator Beer News (www.celebrator.com), along with much correspondence from him; Great Beers of Belgium by Michael Jackson (December, 2005, MMC-Bierpassie Magazine (www.beerpassion.com), ISBN 9-053-7301-84); Tim Webb's Good Beer Guide Belgium (May, 2005, CAMRA, ISBN 1 85249 210 4, www.booksaboutbeer.com, White Beer Travels Web page); 300 Beers To Try Before You Die, by Roger Protz (1939-) (2005, CAMRA, ISBN 1 85249 213-9); and a book mentioned above, Het Land van Hoegaarden, by Jos Cels.
Also much consulted was Jean-Marc Simon's "Proud to be Belgian" website, home.tiscali.be/proud2b, which, hiding behind this can't-do-without website's name, is a directory of Belgian Breweries, past and present, and their beers. It uses the same classification system as Bières et Brasseries Belges/Belgische Bieren en Brouwerijen (Belgian Beers and Breweries), a truly essential book that was also much consulted; the 2005 version was produced by Dutchman, Loek Klasen, the Vice-President of the Guilde des Tâte-Bière (Guild of Beer Tasters), which is associated with the Musée des Bières Belges (Belgian Beer Museum, www.museebieresbelges.centerall.com), in Lustin. Sadly, Loek passed away in July, 2006. Click here to see the page for the village of Hoegaarden, in Jean-Marc's site, which has hyperlinks to the pages covering its individual breweries.
Pat Kempeneers, from Kapelle-op-den-Bos, in Flemish Brabant, who is a collector of memorabilia from the old breweries of Hoegaarden, has also provided much information that was proving very difficult to find anywhere else. Zythos's Casimir Elsen, as stated above, also provided much information, and label scans.
I have also got information from telephone conversations with Pierre and his daughter Christine, who I have also been in correspondence with, and this White Beer Travels Web page has also been augmented by material resulting from an interview with Pierre, in Hoegaarden, that took place in May, 2006.
There are no hotels in Hoegaarden, but, just outside the village, there is a very nice Bed & Breakfast place, called Huilewind, at Meerstraat 15, tel 0494 05 48 05, www.huilewind.be. In nearby Tienen, see above, there is an hotel in the town centre, the Alpha (Leuvensestraat 95, tel 016 82 28 00, www.alphahotel.be). This has a very nice bar/restaurant, Dé Brasserie, which has good food, ranging from snacks to full meals, and a handful of well-known beer classics, such as (May, 2006 prices): Westmalle Dubbel/Tripel at €3.30/3.80; Orval and Duvel, both at €3.50; and Rochefort ? at €3.90. There are regular trains connecting Brussels with Tienen (check www.b-rail.be for times, prices and to buy tickets), the journey time being as little as forty-five minutes; the trains stop at Leuven (www.leuven.be), which is well worth visiting. From Tienen, one can get to Hoegaarden by phoning for a Belbus (tel 016 31 37 00), or on De Lijn (www.delijn.be) number 360/361/362 buses (click here for a White Beer Travels Web page giving details of how to use this Dutch-language site, which also gives details of the excellent Belbus system).
The above photos of bars in Hoegaarden, were taken by John White, in May, 2006. As you can see both are badged Hoegaarden, and both have the famous Hoegaarden glass hanging on their walls. However, since the photos were taken, a most welcome development is that the place on the right has become a Brew Pub. More details on these interesting places follows.
There was a Biermuseum in Hoegaarden, in a pub dating from 1636, 't Cabaret over den Cruysblock, which today is called 't Nieuwhuys, the New House, a strange name for a place that is so old, but it is on the site of a much older building, indeed, the town's oldest building; click here to go up this Web page to see a photo of 't Nieuwhuys. It is opposite the former Cruysblockhoeve (today, the Hoeve Cipers-Tommestraat), at Ernest Ourystraat 2-4 (on the corner of Tiensestraat), tel 016 81 71 64). The former Beer Museum's exhibits have now been moved to Het Kapittelhuis, Houtmarkt 1, where other regularly changing exhibitions take place. For hundreds of years, 't Nieuwhuys was the headquarters of The Hoegaarden Beer Guild, see above, but I understand that this may no longer be the case. 't Nieuwhuys is mentioned in Pierre's biography, for example, the entry in the Chronology section for 1968, two years after his Celis Brewery opened, is as follows: Advertising text in Hoegaarden "café 't Nieuwhuys (1747) ... a unique tavern to enjoy the Blond Hoegaarden Beer of Brewery Celis". This could mean that Pierre's Oud Hoegaards Bier was possibly not regarded as a White/Wheat Beer then, as Hoegaardiers were so used to it being their local style.
Interestingly, in December, 2006, brewing commenced in 't Nieuwhuys, when it became a Brew Pub, the Café-brouwerij 't Nieuwhuys (www.hoegaardsbier.be). It is open on Thursday to Saturday from 5pm, and on Sunday from 3pm. The initial 't Nieuwhuys "Artisanaal Hoegaards Bier" (Artisanal Hoegaarden Beer) is Alpaïde (9%), an almost Black Beer, with 10% Wheat in the mash, although it is no Wheat Beer; it is hopped with Hops from Poperinge; an Amber beer is to follow. Alpaïde is stout-like, with a very long after taste. The first beer is named after Alpaïdis, a 10th Century Countess of Bruningerode, the Capital of which was Huardis (Hoegaarden), see below. Alpaide is available on draught, in the bar in which the brew house vessels (250 litre brew length, but to be upped with the installation of a 10 Hectolitre Copper) are to be found; the fermentation and lagering (maturation) vessels are in the cellar, which also houses the "Warm Room" (Warme Kamer), where the secondary fermentation of Nieuwhuys beers in kegs and bottles takes place, this room actually being the top of a Gallo-Roman well (Gallo-Romeinse Waterput). The brewer is Jan Dewachter, who runs the Brew pub with his wife, Mieke De Backer. In the 1980s, Jan worked for South African Breweries (SAB), in South Africa, where he developed an interest in home brewing. He planned to open the brewery in Hoegaarden before the announcement of the closure of the InBev factory, and always intended to brew beers of a different style to the famous Wheat Beer that originated in the town.
Vroentestraat and Stoopkensstraat are the two streets on which the breweries associated with Pierre Celis are located; they are on opposite sides of Tiensestraat (the N221 National road), to the North of the centre of the village. The nearest bus stop for scheduled buses is called "Au Canal" (coming from Tienen, this is the one after the stop called Klooster), which is on Tiensestraat (GPS: 50.777357o N, 4.893530o E), just around the corner from the location of Pierre's first brewery at Vroentestraat 1 (GPS: 50.778228o N, 4.895327o E). Close to the bus stop is the Café Zaal Pax (Peace Bar/Function Room), see the photo, above left, at Tiensestraat 81, tel 016 76 73 46. This atmospheric, locals' bar, which was formerly called the Lekke Boi, has beers from the nearby factory, along with a handful of more acceptable, non-InBev beers, such as Trappist ones from Orval and Westmalle, at very low prices. Interestingly, on other tables, the ubiquitous Wheat Beer was not being served in the famous hexagonal glass of the place's badging, but in the first type of glass that Pierre introduced, the handled one for his original version of Hoegaarden: "Oud Hoegaards Bier" (Old Hoegaarden Beer), see the photo of it above.
Click here to see the timetable for the three scheduled buses; the most frequent is the 360, which goes on to Jodoigne (Geldenaken), close by, in Wallonian Brabant (Waals-Brabant), which has a Tim Webb entry, Le Retro, at Avenue Fernand Charlot 2, tel 010 81 03 42. Tienen (population in 2005: 31,500), which, after Sint-Niklaas, in East Flanders, has the largest square in Belgium, has a Tim Webb entry with over 130 beers: 't Loft, Spiegelstraat 11-13, tel 016 76 56 45. It does not open on Thursday and Sunday. In Tienen, there is, of course, a Sugar Museum (Suikermuseum) (www.suikermuseum.org). There is also a vineyard producing Organic "White Wines", Bio-Hageling Wijnbouw, on the Deelberg hill above the town, at Vianderdal 23, www.hageling-bio.be. The Sugar Museum and the Tourist Information Office, which incorporates a shop selling regional products, including Hageling Wine, is on the big square, the Grote Markt, at number 4. In the square, there is a most impressive church, the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ten-Poelkerk, alongside which is a pub named after the King of Beer, Gambrinus, at Grote Markt 22.
By road, Hoegaarden is reached from junction 25 of the E40 (A3) motorway between Brussels and Liège (Luik). This is the junction for the N29 National Road, which is taken in the direction of Jodoigne (Geldenaken), rather than Tienen, in the opposite direction on it. Soon after leaving the motorway, turn right, in the signed direction of Hoegaarden, onto the N221, and you will soon be there. In Hoegaarden itself, the N221, goes right in the signed direction of Tienen, hence its name, Tiensestraat, after the turn. Soon reached, off this on the right, is Vroentestraat, and to the left, directly opposite, is Stoopkensstraat, the two streets being the respective locations of the two breweries that Pierre set up in Hoegaarden.
Hoegaarden's tourist office is in the Municipal Hall (Gemeentehuis), at Gemeenteplein 1. It is open on Monday to Friday from 9am to Noon, and from 1pm to 5pm. On Saturdays, it opens from 9am to Noon. Once the brewery closes, in September, 2006, the main tourist attraction in Hoegaarden is a collection of Gardens (Tuinen), "De Tuinen van Hoegaarden", in Kappitelpark, Houtmarkt 1, www.detuinenvanhoegaarden.be (stopped working in June, 2006). Also worth visiting is Sint-Gorgoniuskerk (St Gorgonius Church), the country's largest Rococo church.
When in Hoegaarden, a very good option for a meal for both the Specialty Beer drinker and the wine lover, is De Carrousel, Tiensestraat 84, tel 016 76 68 88, www.carrouselhoegaarden.be. This Restaurant-Traiteur (Delicatessen), as it designates itself, has a Provençale feel to it, with above average food, a very good wine list, and around thirty bottled beers, plus a couple on draught. There is a Bier van de Maand (Beer of the Month). It is not open on Monday and Tuesday.
I am not sure whether a Hoegaarden restaurant called Op de Wallen van Alpaïde, Gemeenteplein 25, tel 016 76 64 69, is still open, since it has disappeared from the Michelin guide, when it was usually the village's only entry. It is on the site of the former mansion owned by Alpaïdis, mentioned above.