I was surprised to happen across Celis Grand Cru in cans yesterday at the Spec’s flagship store on Smith Street, the first time I had seen the beer in Houston, either in stores or on in bars or restaurants since that release party. I had to pick up a six-pack.
I’m especially glad that I did, as I ended up having few friends over in the afternoon. Along with the Grand Cru, I had several beers from other small breweries to share. The Grand Cru was wide favorite among all four of us, and clearly also the best made beer to me. Fittingly described by the brewery as featuring “a combination of full rich taste with fruity and spicy accents,” it tasted like a true and delicious Belgian tripel, with a hint of citrus and tropical fruitiness and a welcome subtleness and complexity, finishing with a long, smooth aftertaste. Made with plenty of light malts to bring it to a substantial 8.6% alcohol, in line with the style, but it nicely doesn’t taste nearly as hefty. The combination of Saaz and Cascade hops add some aroma and spicy bitterness – it’s only around 20 IBUs – and the ground coriander seeds and dried orange peel add to the fruit notes. It’s also “made with the same special yeast strain used in the original 1965 recipe,” helping it retain some of the character of its predecessor, Hoegaarden Grand Cru, that Christine Celis’s father, the legendary brewer Pierre Celis, created a half-century ago. Famed beer writer Michael Jackson called that beer “outstanding” and “a liqueur of the beer world,” which might well apply to its newest incarnation that’s now available in Houston.
Celis Grand Cru
$9.78 per six-pack at Spec’s