When I moved to the Austin area in 1999, it was a beer oasis in the middle of Texas. There were plenty of brewpubs — including Waterloo, The Copper Tank and The Bitter End. There were two homebrew shops. And, there was a world-class brewery — Celis.
The Celis Brewery was the namesake of Pierre Celis, the Belgian brewer who revived the witbier style with his Hoegaarden witbier. After his Belgian brewery burned down, Celis was unable to reopen because he was underinsured. However, he was able to secure funding to open a brewery in the US and he came to Texas.
His Austin brewery produced Celis White, which was a world class beer — and earned the medals at various commercial beer competitions to prove it. To top it off, the brewery also made a second world-class beer — Celis Grand Cru. (To be fair, they also made Celis Raspberry and Pale Rider, a beer advertised as having been brewed to the specifications of Clint Eastwood. But, with two home runs in Celis' portfolio, it's silly to spend much time on the bunts.)
Celis was thinking big when he set up shop in Austin, a kind of big that few US craft brewers were back in the 1990s. He came to Austin primarily because of the water, but he also knew that Austin put him between two of the biggest cities in the US (Dallas, to the north and Houston, to the east), near a major seaport (Houston) and near a major US highway (the brewery was located right off I-35). Celis wanted his brewery to be huge. And for awhile, it looked like that was going to happen....