We all know that Guinness is good for you, but how many people knew that Guinness isn't Ireland's oldest pint, and—while we're identifying gaps in knowledge—St. James's Gate isn't Ireland's oldest brewery? I was obviously missing that day at school. It seems 2010 marks the 300 year birthday for the Smithwick's St. Francis Abbey Brewery in Kilkenny. To celebrate the milestone, the brewery has thrown open it's doors and is inviting the public to tour the working brewery in Kilkenny, including a visit to the 12th Century St Francis Abbey which is on the brewery site.
|John Smithwick, circa 1700. Smithwicks.ie|
|Brewing yard, circa 1900. Smithwicks.ie|
The Smithwicks story spans the last three-hundred years of Irish history and so it's a colorful one; the back story includes 13th Century monks who liked their brew, The Reformation, the early 1700s and a man determined to succeed despite the odds, Penal Law, the Great Famine, Catholic Emancipation and Daniel O'Connell, through to World War II, ensuing decades of competition, expansion, and then the development of new technology and a draught beer. All told there were nine generations of Smithwick men involved in the growth of the Smithwicks company and brand, and I'd imagine the tour could be a very interesting history lesson—if you don't drink too much in the tasting room, that is!
For now, I'll celebrate by raising a pint of Smithwicks on this side of the Atlantic; and then hopefully I can swing a visit to this hot new tourist destination on my next trip home.