The Daily Spud

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Good For What Ales You

As I climbed out of the taxi, my driver, Anthony, had one last wish for my onward journey:

“Give them my love”, says he, “and tell them to keep brewing the Smithwick’s for me and for you”.

I think he might just have had a tear in his eye as he wished me well, being quite overcome at the thought that I was on my way to visit the Smithwick’s brewery. Having discovered my intended destination, Anthony’s eyes had lit up and his expression become more animated. At the mention of the Irish ale that is Smithwick’s, he had announced proudly “that’s my drink, so it is”.

We had swapped beer stories and talked about that certain solidarity that exists among Smithwick’s drinkers, perhaps the result of always being the odd one out in a sea of Guinness and lager stalwarts.

Smithwicks through the years

Smithwick's through the years

I will admit that, having been a Smithwick’s drinker for years, I was just as excited as Anthony was about my visiting the brewery. Forget that I was leaving a half-unpacked house behind me, a visit to Smithwick’s trumped all.

Smithwicks draught tap

The new Smithwick's draught tap

Located in the heart of Kilkenny city and, with an impressive 300 year history, Smithwick’s is the oldest operating brewery in Ireland. Only recently opened for tours, with an itinerary that brings you through some of the operational parts of the brewery, and also to the medieval ruins of the 13th century St. Francis Abbey within the grounds of the brewery, this is one for the list if you’re in the Kilkenny area.

St. Francis Abbey

St. Francis Abbey

By the time I had glimpsed this Irish beer at various stages of its development and inhaled the warm brewery deliciousness, I might just have had a tear in my eye too. Talking afterward to head brewer Ian Hamilton, I remembered why I had spent such a long time drinking Smithwick’s in the past, even if I had never consciously considered the components of its desirability: a delicate, fruity aroma, natural tawny port colour and balance of bitterness and malt in the taste. Even after almost 30 years as a brewer with Smithwick’s, Ian retains an enthusiasm for the ale that, like the beer itself, is refreshing and leaves you wanting to imbibe forthwith. Which I did.

100000 pints of Smithwicks

To the left - 100,000 pints of Smithwick's.
To the right - my first post-tour pint. Only 99,999 more to go.

Indeed, I enjoyed the visit (and the pint) so much that I might just have to visit again when next passing that way – which, with any luck, will be soon. October’s Savour Kilkenny festival, featuring the full breadth of food and drink on offer in the Marble City, is writ large in my diary. If the festival should involve savouring Smithwick’s, so much the better.

Savour Kilkenny

7 Comments

  1. Ahhhh…memories are made of Smithwicks and 2 of us sharing a bike up to Dowlings of Ballyshannon or Hickeys of Calverstown for a pint between us…

  2. Ooooh, we stayed in Kilkenny (just before the annual comedy festival) during our trip a few years back, but I don’t recall that Smithwicks was open for tours at the time. However, we quickly learned to pronounce it properly – “Smit-ticks”, not our lame “Smith-Wicks”. Come to think of it, I was a total brew dunce during that trip: I also lunged for my Guinness before it had settled and was topped off. Such a tourist . . .

    By all means, a tour of a 300 year old brewery takes precedence – those boxes were still waiting for you, I’m sure. Hope all is going well with the move and I look forward to a full report of Savour Kilkenny in October! 8-)

  3. Daily Spud

    Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Ange: them were the days…

    Tangled Noodle: The tours are definitely new. Not sure if they’ve done some kind of tours in the past, but not that I recall – at least I’m sure that I would have visited before this if there were tours on offer! And, yes, the boxes were still there when I got back – such is the nature of moving :) Meanwhile, roll on October!

  4. And here I am, swimming in a pool filled with water, when I could be diving into THAT!

    Love Smithwick’s.

  5. I love a good brewed Kilkenny!
    My husband went theere a few years ago!

    A lovely & funny post!

    Kisses from Brussels!

  6. I loved Kilkenny but I think I sadly overlooked this wonderful brew, oh well, need to go back. Not that I needed an excuse but hey. I am going to have to do my traditional taste comparisons. Good luck with the unpacking – hate that part of moving.

  7. Daily Spud

    Monday, August 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Lisa: they sure had a lot of Smithwick’s to dive into at the brewery :D

    Sophie: hi there – so glad you like the post; and I think you need to visit Kilkenny too :)

    OysterCulture: you have lots of excuses for coming back at this stage I’ll warrant – and, as you know, I am not exactly lacking in excuses for visiting the Bay Area – I think we need to organise an exchange!

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