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One of the country’s first fruit beers, Celis Raspberry, is making a big return

Arianna Auber
aauber@statesman.com
Celis Raspberry won't be release in cans until early April, but you can try the beer on tap at the Celis taproom starting tonight.

Since Celis Brewery returned last summer, longtime fans who remember Celis’ original beers have been clamoring for one in particular to come back — Celis Raspberry. It was first brewed in 1994 and hasn’t been available since 2001.

Now, a new generation of drinkers will get to try it. Celis Raspberry debuts on draft at the North Austin taproom this evening and will release widely in cans and kegs on April 2. The release party tonight doubles as the birthday party of the late founder Pierre Celis, who would’ve been 93.

He created the Celis Raspberry recipe as an homage to the fruit beers of Belgium, his home country. Very little about the current beer has been changed, according to his daughter and current Celis Brewery owner Christine Celis. 

Celis Raspberry is made with fresh raspberry juice, unmalted wheat, Cascade and Golding Hops, and the original, proprietary Belgian yeast strain so distinctive in Celis beers. The deep rose-colored Raspberry is lightly tart and fruity, with an alluring aroma of berry and a crisp, dry finish. Both the more vibrant color and a lower amount of sweetness have been updates from the original recipe.

“This is a big step forward for Celis,” Christine Celis said. “People had the White, the Pale Bock and then the Tripel (return). But the question was, ‘When is the raspberry coming back?’ It has been all about the Raspberry. Now that it's spring, it's the right time to release the beer.”

But Celis Raspberry won’t be a spring seasonal — it’s a year-round brew that she expects will “be making a lot of people happy.”

Christine’s father spent a year perfecting Celis Raspberry in the 1990s, trying to find the right amount of aroma and tartness to appeal to the palate of drinkers at the time who were still used to the mild flavor of Budweiser. Raspberry became one of the first fruit beers in the U.S. following Prohibition, and people “were very intrigued by it, especially because it didn’t taste like beer,” Christine Celis said.

Well, women were intrigued by it. Most men didn’t try the fruity, red-hued beer, she said, or at least didn’t admit to drinking it.

“In the beginning, not one single man would touch it. It was all women. But behind closed doors, (the guys) would enjoy it,” she said. 

Everyone can enjoy it at the Celis Raspberry release party tonight, which will include authentic Belgian cuisine from Chef Aaron Esserman, a bolo tie contest and a birthday cake in honor of Pierre Celis, and Celis-branded trucker hats for the first 100 guests. (So get there early! It starts at 3 p.m., when the taproom opens.)

If you can’t make it, there will be plenty of future release parties at local bars and restaurants starting March 30. Plus, local stores like HEB will have the cans. Here’s the schedule of releases.

  • Lustre Pearl Raspberry Crawfish Boil on March 30, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. 
  •  Growler USA Anniversary Party and Raspberry Release on March 31
  •  Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden Raspberry Release on April 2, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. 
  •  Easy Tiger at Whole Foods Market 365 in Cedar Park’s Celis Raspberry Launch Party on April 2, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. and featuring Christine Celis 
  •  Easy Tiger’s Raspberry Release on April 3, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., and featuring Christine Celis 
  •  Hi Hat Public House Raspberry Blend Release on April 3, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., and featuring Daytona Camps hosting the Pink Boots Society Night 
  •  Waller Creek Pub House Raspberry Release on April 4, 4:20 to 7:00 p.m. 
  •  Parlor & Yard Bingo Night Release on April 4, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. 
  •  Mort Subite Raspberry Release on April 5, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. 
  •  Whichcraft Tap Room & Bottle Shop Raspberry Release on April 6, 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 p.m. 
  •  Hopfields Blended Brunch on April 8, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 
  •  The Driskill Hotel’s Craft Series at 1886 featuring Celis beers on April 9, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., with special guest Christine Celis