Auction Could Be Last Call For Austin's Celis Brewery

Jun 27, 2019

Austin’s Celis Brewery is scheduled to be auctioned off next week – unless the brewery receives bankruptcy protection.

In 2017, Christine Celis reopened the brewery with much fanfare, 17 years after the business her dad started shut its doors.

Christine Celis could not be reached for comment, but a public notice published last week said the essential parts of the brewery – the building, yeast tanks and other equipment – could be auctioned off Tuesday. The name and the beer recipes were not mentioned in the notice.

Exactly why Celis is in trouble is unknown. Julia Herz, craft beer program director with the Brewers Association, said small brewers face challenges beyond just creating good beer. She pointed to fluctuating commodity costs, regulation and competition from larger brewers.

She said the group isn't seeing "one main pattern" to what caused 200-plus breweries to close last year.

Celis has had a complicated history.

In 1992, Pierre Celis, the founder of Belgium's famed Hoegaarden Brewery, opened shop in Austin. By the middle of the decade, Miller Brewing Co. had a controlling interest in the company. But in 2000, it closed the brewery after slowing sales.

In 2012, a year after Pierre Celis' death, his daughter Christine bought the Celis beer name back at auction. She had been working to revive the brewery.

As popular as craft breweries are in Austin, Herz said, Texas has missed out on some of the trend because of regulations that favor big distributors and bigger beer makers.

“You need an environment that is going to nurture the breweries to grow," she said, "and Texas is behind."

Texas is 46th nationally in breweries per capita. Herz said legislation like the beer-to-go law that passed last session will help craft brewers grow in the state.

Though Texas may be behind, the Austin area is doing its part. There are more than 110 taprooms, brewpubs and craft breweries in Travis, Hays, Williamson and Bastrop counties.