March is Women’s History Month and I’m sitting down with fellow Austin women of craft beer to hear their story and why they choose this industry.
The series’ first interview with women of craft beer comes from a very special duo: Christine Celis and Daytona Camps. Christine Celis recently revived her father’s brewery and her daughter Daytona, is helping with brewing operations.
“Having a female brewery means a lot to me and then also seeing the whole evolution in the brewing industry of all these women and fantastic brewers and all of that, I mean it’s time, this is happening. And it’s time that man has finally acknowledged us that we can do this job. Think about it you know, thousands of years ago who were the brewers? The women. “
Christine Celis, Celis Brewery
Historical (and Fun) Facts About Celis Brewery:
- Celis Brewery was the FIRST brewery in Austin!
- Celis Brewery was almost called Flemish Fox Brewery until the family won the legal rights to use their original name.
- The 22,000 square foot North Austin brewery has a beautiful taproom with an eye-catching centerpiece: the original Celis Brewery’s hand-beaten copper kettle from the early 1900s!
- If you’d like even more information about Celis Brewery and their return to Austin, check out my post here.
I first met Pierre Celis’ daughter, Christine, back in November 2016 at the grand opening of Mort Subite, Austin’s Belgian beer bar. I was still fairly new to Austin, and had just started gaining traction writing about craft beer.
Needless to say, I was blown-away after she told me the story of her family’s history and its place in this city. I knew I wanted to talk with her more about that and get a chance to meet her daughter, who stays busy brewing all the delicious beer we love drinking.
This year and this month seemed like the perfect time to do that. I feel so blessed that I not only got to sit down with two women in craft beer to hear their relationship, but that I also get to share it with you all. So without further ado….
Highlights From My Interview These Two Women of Craft Beer:
- Christine’s experience growing up in a brewery and helping her father as a young girl in Belgium.
- When Daytona knew she wanted to carry on the family tradition and help brew her grandfather’s original recipe.
- How the mother and daughter team celebrated winning their family name back.
- When the two realized they want to get serious and make a career for themselves in craft beer.
- Their thoughts on being a woman in a male-dominated industry
You and your mother brought back Celis together as a family. What was one of your favorite moments working on that as a mom and daughter team?
Daytona: Getting the name back for sure. Well, just seeing everything too. Because I saw this [the Celis Brewery] from when it was a tile company and the potentials and the pictures of what it could look like and then be digging up everything and then just seeing it grow into how it was for Flemish Fox was alone amazing and then when we got the opportunity to buy our name back, that was just, that was a cherry on it all.
How did you guys celebrate when you got your ‘Celis’ name back?
Daytona: We ate sushi.
BWSG: You ate sushi?
Daytona: Yes, we got a bottle of wine too.
Christine: The name was great but you know what? The first time when we put in the [Celis White] recipe in our system here after being gone for 17 years. I mean that was such an epic moment, it was like , “My God, we did it.” Here we are, we are brewing Celis White and two weeks from now, we’ll be enjoying Celis White in cans.
Daytona: That was the longest wait ever.
Christine: It was also one of the longest brews because we just started and so it was a little bit different but it was so worth it, it was so worth it.
BWSG: Yes, that’s awesome. I just couldn’t imagine how awesome it’d be to share all this with your mom, following after your grandfather. And so, it’s pretty cool coming back to Austin and then to see it’s two women leading this.
Christine: That’s right. That’s right. And then you know it’s even more gratifying is just the gratitude and the acceptance from everybody in Austin. I mean everybody was so excited. That people remember Celis. It was just mind-blowing.
Christine, when you came of drinking age and were spending time with your father, how did you, gain your experience with beer? Would you and your father go out together? Did you read books?
Christine: No, it was more of you know, I was born and raised in a brewery, right? So, I used to play in the brewery all the time. When I would come home from school, and my homework was done, I would play in the brewery with him [Pierre Celis]. And you know as I grew older, my dad would sometimes say, “Here, why don’t you help me clean this out?” and everything was still done by hand. I had to crawl in there, take the shovel and put it in the wheelbarrow and this and that. Then you know when I had to fill kegs, he would say, “Here’s the hose. Put it in the keg, look in the little hole to make sure when you see the beer coming up, you got to close the hose and then you put in the next keg.” I was what? Eight, nine years old? You know or I had to clean the open fermenters so then I had to crawl in there in the little ladder.
BWSG: You weren’t scared?
Christine: No, and my dad was very, very, I mean very safe and he would check on me all the time. So he would tell me, “This is what you got to do. Here’s your scraper and try to get off the yeast that’s caked on the surface of the fermenter.” So over time he would just make it seem like playing and helping, but meanwhile, he was educating me for the future if I was interested in that.
BWSG: So you never felt any pressure from your dad to continue in his footsteps and work in the beer industry?
Christine: Oh God, never. So then my dad and I would be traveling together too and then we’re visiting distributors, then we talked about sales and we talked about all sorts of brewery related, sometimes not, just life experience that’s it. But he never ever mentioned anything that I had to be in the beer business. Never!
Daytona, when did you first start getting into beer, was it as early as your mom?
Daytona: I mean I always love the tasting and sampling beers and seeing you know, what would she bring home and all the different options out there. But it was when I was a junior in high school, 2011, when my grandfather passed away. A lot of people would reach out and that’s when I really got into how much love there was in the beer industry.
I mean, so that really took an interest and the art aspect of brewing beer alone is really fascinating. You can do all kinds of stuff and I love working with my hands and creating things, so I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to give it a go. We’ll see.”
And it was never pressured on me but I went for it and I went to Buffalo, New York. I went on a three and a half barrel system, so this is like a glorified homebrew set up and it was going to be for three months but I loved it that much I stayed for a year! I kept begging to stay a little longer but she [Christine] had to put her foot down and say, “No.”
So I came back the next day and I worked at Uncle Billy’s for two years. Which was a 20 barrel system. It’s a little bit more automatic but still just as hands on. I got to learn more and more about the brewing and techniques and you know more about the business and distributing side as well. Then after two years at Uncle Billy’s, that’s probably around the time that we’re already digging and putting the pipes and steam and all that stuff here. So I wanted to see how the whole building was and where everything was going to be laid out. And I ended up leaving to start working here.
Another question for you Daytona, the first time that you had Celis White, was that the first batch made here?
Daytona: Well, so I took sips when I was a young girl but this is my first time actually really enjoying.
BWSG: It must have been really exciting to finally try!
Daytona: Yes, but finally. This is everything, everyone’s been talking about this one.
Christine: I think it was an experience for you too, with how much it is, like what is all that fuss about!?”
Daytona: Yes. This is it? This is it.
Christine: And so, kind of ways we’re all, we’re sitting at the long table with the first glass looking and staring, ready? Ready? Anyway it was a success.
Christine, you must have been very happy too that she followed in your footsteps and was able to help keep up the recipe, which is nearly a family heirloom.
Christine: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, when she told me [she wanted to brew beer] I couldn’t believe it. I remember saying to her like, “Hey, if you want beer, I mean I can get you a beer. You don’t have to say brew it.” But anyways, she was like, “No, I’m really serious about it.” Which is great, I mean that’s really ultimately what you wish for, right? So you do this for the right reason, you want to bring back the first brewery back to Austin, you want to continue that legacy but on a bonus, you know? You get that your daughter and now she wants to continue this legacy, and wants to be a brewer. Daytona has a really good palate too, so I think she inherited that and also learned it from her grandfather.
Do you remember a specific moment when you knew you wanted to be in beer for the rest of your life?
Christine: Yes, after I graduated from school my dad’s like, “Oh, can you help me out in the brewery” and so I started up from, I started from bottom up. You know my dad was not like here’s my daughter, here is a beautiful desk or whatever. No, no, no. And so I didn’t want that anyway because I had no experience, what was I going to do there? Right? He taught me on working my way up and that was it, and it was fun and I’m like, I really want to do this
BWSG: Yes, I can imagine. I’m sure. I just feel like with you being born and raised in a brewery and then following that path you must be one of the smartest beer people in the world.
Christine: Well, yeah, but you don’t look at that. I mean it was a normal thing, these conversations happen daily you know every day if you wake up, my dad would be talking about beer to my mom or whatever. All I ever heard was about beer, which is normal.
Back in the day, it must have been hard as a woman in craft beer because you probably didn’t have any females brewers or anything of the like to look up to, did you?
Christine: None. I had my dad, that was it, you know. I mean, no. There was no need really to look anywhere else.
BWSG: Well the beer industry is not gonna be a boys club much longer so.
Christine: That is right. That’s exactly right!
Has there been any moments when someone made assumptions about your knowledge, not because they didn’t know that you were so invdolved in craft beer and come from a family of brewers or that, but just because you’re a woman.
Daytona: Oh yes. Well, like let’s all go with doing sales so. I also hope it stills instead of being a brand of masters, I’ll go with sales rep, a distributor or one of us and I’m like, “Hey, here’s our beer” and I’ll talk about the beer description or even right before I start talking about the beers. They just kind of sometimes don’t give me the time of day. I’m like trying to tell them something that they want to hear.
Christine: But I think that has more to do though that she looks so young. She’s 23 so there are not many people that have that [knowledge and experience]. Right now there are a lot more female brewers and now it’s completely accepted. But I think also it’s because she looks so young and but you know just for the people that used to drink Celis, not a problem. It’s just the people that are now coming of drinking age, and they don’t know anything about Celis, of course now we have to reinforce the story. And they are willing to listen too. What I’m saying is people from 21 years old up to 35 that were too young to drink in the old days. So you have to explain it to them and they’re really interested in the story. They want to know what they’re drinking, what’s it come from, how are you legit? “Are you doing this for the right reason, what’s in that beer?”
Daytona: Well also the market, I mean there’s so many breweries out there, so I’m sure people are thinking, “Well, why this one? What makes you stand out? What’s so different about your beer, why I should go buy it, why should I, you know ‘ cause there are so many other options. So why you? And then that’s when we step in.
Christine: That’s when the story [of Celis Brewery] comes. And that’s why everybody like, “Wow!” Everybody knows it’s legit. Yes, and then when you bring them over here [to the brewery] because then they see, “Oh this is not just you know a little bitty brewery, this is some high tech equipment. So people are impressed, they really are. But you know for us, I always say, my biggest motto is, quality and consistency. I wanted to invest in really good equipment, invest in really good people and so we have that here.
Christine, Do you think it’s becoming more accepted that women are in craft beer and they like to drink beer?
Christine: Yes. Well, a lot has changed and you know not just in the food industry but just as in the overall business from alcohol even wine, even liquor, even in the food industry everything has changed so. You know but the beer world is still being considered as a man’s world.
Daytona: For now.
Christine: Of course, definitely. When after we sold the Celis Brewery I started importing some Belgium beer and then I actually sub-worked for another brewery. So you know when you sell beer and it doesn’t matter if it’s imports or now, actually people do listen to you in a way. If you have something to say about beer if you know what you’re talking about and I had the backup because I was born and raised in a brewery. My dad was a brewer, a world-renowned brewer, master brewer so when I had something to say about beer, people took notice or you know they’re more not judgmental. And so when I think right now, in the beginning, it was also like ah! women and beer, what do they know? Now I think the overall perspective is almost like, it’s kind of sexy that women are in the beer world. They know what they’re talking about, we have a much better palate and more men have now finally accepted that. Because if you go to big breweries, all the tasters, 90% or 95% of tasters in big breweries are all females and you know 10%, of course, are men. But yes, we, as women in craft beer definitely have something to show for.