I first met Pierre Celis in a hotel lobby while in Denver for the 2004 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. He had just finished a meeting with what appeared to be a group that was anxious to import "Celis" branded beer into the states. After the meeting I stopped Pierre in the lobby and had a brief conversation about his upcoming beer projects and a brief stroll down memory lane about his former breweries and of course his revival of Wit beer. In under three minutes he educated me, made me laugh and most importantly made me fall in love with brewing all over again.
A year later back in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center I saw him again. Pierre was autographing his new autobiography "My Life" and taking pictures with fans. I stopped over and said hello, picking up a few copies for him to sign for me and a couple of friends. He remarked that he thought we had met before and I mentioned it was about a year ago here in Denver. As if he had a "eureka" moment he said "in a hotel right"? I smiled and said "yes, you've got a good memory", we both smiled and then he asked how my wit beer recipe was progressing. I was a bit startled that he remembered our brief conversation and I responded that it was coming along but was no where as good as his. Pierre then told me something that stuck with me, that hard work is rewarded and to keep working on it, but not to forget that the only way to make a wit beer better than his was to make it my own. That even the greatest imitators will always just be that, be original.
When I learned of his passing this spring it once again reminded me of his advice to be original and make something my own. Our wit beer here at Franklin's is greatly inspired by Pierre's wit beers, but to honor him with another rendition of something his name is synonymous with seemed a bit redundant. Instead I choose to brew something more original and my own. The idea was to re-pitch our Wit beer yeast from our Witty Twitty ( a yeast originating from his original wit beer in Belgium) into a Porter recipe unlike any other I had ever created.
This recipe started with 2-row barley malt, melanoidin, malted oats,Vienna malt,flaked oats( oatmeal) smoked malt,caramunich, two types of crystal malt,biscuit,chocolate and black patent malt, that's right, a dozen different grains. In addition cane sugar was added to the kettle to increase the gravity and American,English,German and Czech hops were added to the boil.
The end result is a Belgian inspired porter that checks in at 7.45 % ABV with notes of chocolate roast,subtle smoke and fruitiness on a body of good malt depth. In addition to what we tapped I have reserved a 60 gallon wine barrel of which was inoculated with multiple strains of Brettanomyces and other funk inducing microbes, so be on the lookout for special release from our funk cellar in the future.