Bogrolls & Barley Wines
Hoegaarden bites Inbev!

















In an age of worker economic uncertainty and selfish business practices, it comes as great pleasure to me when some corporate bastard gets its arse kicked
by a minnow. This is exactly what happened in that most conservative of European countries, Belgium -- home of some rather delicious chocolate, fascinating
beers and some pretty crap football teams.

In 2005, the world's biggest brewer, InBev, announced it was going to close its Hoegaarden brewery and transfer brewing operations to its huge lager factory
situated at Jupille, near Leige. There was just a minor detail to consider: The renowned Hoegaarden Wit (White) Ale was brewed in the town of Hoegaarden
as it had been since Belgian brewer Pierre Celis revived the Wit style in the mid-1960s. To close the brewery would mean the loss of several hundred jobs,
remove a famous beer style from the town, and literally remove the soul from Hoegaarden where the brewery was the main employer.

Another issue was the cultural difference. Hoegaarden is a Dutch-speaking area of Belgium while Jupille is French-speaking. For all intensive purposes,
Hoegaarden Wit was being sent up a certain creek without a certain instrument.  But hey, that's no big deal for InBev who have a ruthless track record of
buying small breweries and then promptly closing them down -- all in a days work at the InBev corporate office.





















The entrance to the Hoegaarden brewery. The InBev management are sheepishly hiding behind the windows.

However, in a move virtually unknown in Flemish Europe, the locals in Hoegaarden got some bollocks and not only protested the move but actually got
involved in demonstrations!  CAMRA's Roger Protz noted that just about every shop and business in Hoegaarden had posters in their windows (written in
Dutch) saying "
Hoegaarden brews Hoegaarden".  CAMRA rallied against the move as did their European counterpart, The European Beer Consumers Union.

The momentum continued -- now in a global fashion -- with the world's beer press making InBev look rather silly and desperately sad. Two years on, in
October 2007, InBev did a U-turn and sheepishly announced that they had shelved plans to close the Hoegaarden brewery - instead, pumping sixty million
Euros in its Belgian breweries in Leuven, Jupille AND Hoegaarden!  It was a magnificent victory for the little town of proud people; the corporate folks at InBev
are probably still scraping the eggs off their dismal faces!  Hooray for the little man!
























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Pierre Celis: The Wizard of Wit Beer














Following the annoucement by InBev not to close the Hoegaaden brewery, Pierre Celis congratulated them on their brave move.  It was, in fact, Celis who was
the brave one, considering the bullshit he's had to put up with from giant corporate brewers since they first got wind of the magnificent wit beer he was
brewing.

The Hoegaarden region of Flemish East Brabant in Belgium has a proud brewing history. Brewing in the area by monks has been traced back to 1318,
although its believed that local brewing goes back as far as the Roman occupation -- The area was perfect for making Wit beers, not just because of wheat,
oats and barley malts but also because of the high calcium in the village water. Also, Dutch and Flemish traders were bringing back exotic spices and fruits
such as coriander and Curacao orange peel, which were used in the brewing process.

In 1560, the Hoegaarden Brewers Guild was formed and by 1758 there were 38 local breweries.  Alas, it was not to last. With the usual reasons of economic
decline and failure to compete with mass produced Pilsner lagers from Leuven, the breweries began to close in the 19th and 20th centuries at an alarming
rate. The last brewery in Hoegaarden, Tomsin, called it a day in the 1950s.

































Enter Pierre Celis, a local milkman. The story goes that while drinking a few bevvies with his mates, he was encouraged to change from one white liquid to
another (i.e.milk to wheat beer).  A lightbulb lit up in Pierre's head and by 1966 he was running his own micro-brewery called Brouwerij Celis, producing a
wheat ale which he named Oud Hoegaard's Bier (Old Hoegaarden Beer). The recipe for this beer can be traced back to 1453 and had thus been remarkably
revived by Pierre.

His beers, aided by his unique eight-sided glasses, made it into the larger Belgian cities, then France and Holland. Production boomed, but disaster loomed --
a bloody great fire destroyed his brewery and having a rather sad insurance policy meant that he wasn't able to carry on.

Enter Stella Artois, a large Belgian Lager producing company. They offered to rebuild Pierre Celis' brewing career in return for 45% of the shares. The
partnership began well, but when Stella merged with Piedboeuf of Jupille in 1988, the writing was on the wall.  The merger produced Interbrew, who in later
years became InBev, when they took over Ambev of Brazil.

The corporate bods at Jupille told Celis that he had to cut costs and cheapen the ingrediants of his beers.  He, in turn, told them to "get stuffed" and so rather
than face more pressure from Jupille, he decided to retire and sold his company to Interbrew, who unfortunately held all the rights to the Hoegaarden beer.
























Enter the United States of America.  In 1992, Celis set up his latest brewing venture in Austin, Texas.  Called The Celis Brewery (by mere coincidence, the
English name for Brouwerij Celis), production reached almost 23,000 barrels annually until his co-investors sold their shares to the next corporate nightmare
to plague Celis: Miller.  Once again, cashflow was emphasized over integrity with Miller insisting that Pierre Celis replace the Czech hops with cheaper
rubbish.  And once again, he told a corporate bastard to "get stuffed".

Celis sold the brewery to Miller in 2000, who closed it down in 2001.  Enter Michigan Brewing Company.  Following the Miller fiasco, The Michigan Brewing
Company offered their services to Celis, which he accepted.  For ten years they continued to brew his wheat beer recipe from 1453, simply called Celis White.
Celis oversaw the production of the beer before returning to Belgium.  

Sadly, Pierre passed away in 2011, but in 2013 it was announced that his daughter was planning to bring Celis White back to Austin, Texas...watch this
space!!!
"Hey, InBev -- F**k Off, you miserable bastards!!!"