SMITHWICK’S ST FRANCIS ABBEY BREWERY TOUR
The Red Abbey Ale of Kilkenny
Smithwick’s Premium Irish Ale celebrated 300 years in 2010, from its historic St Francis Abbey Brewery facility in Kilkenny, brewing ale since 1710. John Smithwick (pronounced Smith’ick) was a young man orphaned by the Irish Rebellion in 1641 when he moved to Kilkenny to start a new life for himself. As a Catholic, he was forbidden to own property, but went into the brewing business with Richard Cole. In 1705, they leased some property from the Duke of Ormonde, the site of a Franciscan abbey ruin near the Nore River. The abbey monks had brewed ale at the monastery with water from the Friar’s well since the 12th Century, but with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII in 1537, the abbey had been long abandoned. The brewery business caught on and in 1710, John Smithwick became the owner, though in secret as he still couldn’t put his name on it.
It wasn’t until the grandson, Edmond Smithwick, bought the brewery from freehold in 1827 that the family name could be attached to the popular local ale produced at the St Francis Abbey Brewery. Edmond was a great supporter of Catholic causes and contributed to the building of Kilkenny’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, which can be seen from the yard of the brewery. The family brewing business survived competitors, the Irish potato famine, floods and wars until tough times almost sank the company. In 1964, rival Guinness & Co., bought a controlling interest, but the Smithwick name remains on the distinctive traditional award winning crisp Irish red ale.
A guided tour of the St Francis Abbey Brewery in the heart of old town Kilkenny, a short walk from the castle (see Kilkenny Castle), takes visitors through the working brewery. Beginning in the old original building now used for displays of the family brewing history, with photos and illustrations, and exhibits of the brewing and ale making process, the tour then heads into the back of the facility, a modern high tech brewing plant, next to the ancient abbey ruins, which still inspires the workers with its 800 year old brewing heritage. A chapel has been built connected to the evocative stones of the old abbey ruin, with a tasting room for special events.
The tour ends back at the brewery’s Cellar Bar for an included pint of Smithwick’s Ale, under the low arched brick ceiling where barrels of fermenting ale were once stored. The correct way to pour the perfect pint of Smithwick’s will be demonstrated, a rather detailed process, to produce the proper smooth head. Four tours a day are offered from Tuesday to Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday) in the afternoons at 12.30pm, 1:00pm 2:15pm and 2:30. Tour cost is €10 including the tasting in the bar. © Bargain Travel Europe
Find best hotel and travel deals in Ireland on TripAdvisor
These articles are copyrighted and the sole property of Bargain Travel Europe and WLPV, LLC. and may not be copied or reprinted without permission.