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Smithwick's logo
A bottle of Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale
TypeIrish red ale
Country of origin Ireland
Introduced1710; 314 years ago (1710)
ColourRuby red
FlavourBalanced, malty.
VariantsKilkenny Cream Ale, Smithwicks Pale Ale

Smithwick's (/ˈsmɪðɪks/) is an Irish red ale-style beer.[1] Smithwick's brewery was founded in Kilkenny in 1710 by John Smithwick and run by the Smithwick family of Kilkenny until 1965, when it was acquired by Guinness, now part of Diageo. The Kilkenny brewery was shut down in 2013 and production of all Smithwick's and Kilkenny branded beers moved to Dublin; parts of the old brewery were later converted into a "visitor experience".[2]


Smithwick's Brewery was founded by John Smithwick in 1710. The brewery is on the site of a Franciscan abbey, where monks had brewed ale since the 14th century, and ruins of the original abbey still remain on its grounds. The old brewery was later renovated to become the "Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny" visitor attraction and centre.[3] At the time of its closure, it was Ireland's oldest operating brewery.

John Smithwick was an orphan who had settled in Kilkenny. Shortly after his arrival, Smithwick went into the brewing business with Richard Cole on a piece of land that Cole had leased from the Duke of Ormond in 1705. Five years later, John Smithwick became the owner of the land. The brewery stayed small, servicing a loyal local following while John Smithwick diversified.

Following John Smithwick's death, the brewery temporarily fell out of family hands. John Smithwick's great-grandson Edmond bought the brewery land back freehold and worked to reshape its future. Edmond concentrated on discovering new markets and successfully building export trade. Drinkers in England, Scotland and Wales developed a taste for Smithwick's brews and output increased fivefold.

As a result of substantial contributions made to St Mary's Cathedral, Edmond became great friends with Irish liberal Daniel O'Connell, who later became godfather to one of his sons. Edmond Smithwick became well known and respected by the people of Kilkenny, who elected him town mayor four times.

In 1800, export sales began to fall and the brewing industry encountered difficulty. To combat this, the Smithwick family increased production in their maltings, began selling mineral water and delivered butter with the ale from the back of their drays.

By 1900, output was at an all-time low and the then owner James Smithwick was advised by auditors to shut the doors of the brewery. Instead, James reduced the range of beers they produced and set out to find new markets. He secured military contracts and soon after saw output increase again. James' son, Walter, took control in 1930 and steered the brewery to success through the hardships of both World War II and increasingly challenging weather conditions.[4] By January 1950, Smithwick's was exporting ale to Boston.

Smithwick's was purchased from Walter Smithwick in 1965 by Guinness and is now, along with Guinness, part of Diageo. Together, Guinness & Co. and Smithwick's developed and launched Smithwick's Draught Ale in 1966. By 1979, half a million barrels were sold each year.

In 1980, Smithwick's began exporting to France. In 1993, Smithwick's Draught became Canada's leading imported ale.

By 2010, Smithwick's continued to be brewed in Dundalk and Kilkenny, with tankers sent to Dublin to be kegged for the on-trade market. Cans and bottles were packaged by IBC in Belfast.

Production in the Kilkenny brewery finished on 31 December 2013 and Smithwick's brands are now produced in the Diageo St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin.

In 2017 Walter Smithwick's son Paul launched Sullivan's Ale with his son Daniel, which has its home in Kilkenny.

The original Kilkenny site was sold to Kilkenny County Council, with a small portion of the site dedicated to the opening of a visitor's centre, the "Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny".[5]

Smithwick Family[edit]

Walter and Eileen Smithwick had six children: Judge Peter Smithwick, Michael, Anne, Judy, Paul and John.

Judge Peter Smithwick (born 1937) is an Irish judge, and chairman and sole member of the Smithwick Tribunal, a Tribunal of Inquiry into the events surrounding the killing of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).[6]

Paul Smithwick (born 1943) launched Sullivan's Ale in 2016 with his son Daniel. His eldest daughter, Emma Smithwick, is a well-known TV producer in London. His daughter Georgina is a technology entrepreneur, named by Sunday Times as one of the Top 100 Innovators in Great Britain.

The Smithwick Family, also owned a Wholesale Cash and Carry business trading as Kilkenny Wholesale Cash and Carry based at New Street, Kilkenny City. A spin off from their core brewing business. And a member of the National Wholesale Grocers Alliance and later Stonehouse Marketing buying groups. This business was sold in 2006 to Barry Group in Mallow, owners of Costcutter and Carryout Franchises in the Republic of Ireland, with the cash and carry being closed and the distribution business transferred to a central distribution centre in Mallow, Co. Cork.

Sullivan's Brewery[edit]

In the Old Kilkenny Review, 1964, Peter Smithwick, K.M., Solicitor, wrote that the tradition in Kilkenny is that Sullivan's Brewery was founded in 1702 by Daniel Sullivan, a Protestant, who bought property in trust for Pierse Bryan of Jenkinstown, a Catholic who was prohibited by the Penal Laws from buying land. The property, on the West side of High Street, "standing backwards in James's Street", is believed to have been the site of Sullivan's Brewery, the forerunner of Smithwicks.[7]


  • A pint glass of Smithwick's draught Irish red ale
    Smithwick's Brewery, Kilkenny
    A can of Smithwick's red ale
    Smithwick's Draught is an Irish red ale and, as the style suggests, has a red tone. It is produced using hops and roasted, malted barley. In 2004, Diageo PLC began distribution in the USA. Smithwick's had previously been marketed in Canada.
  • Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale is similar to Smithwick's Draught; however, it has a creamy head similar to Guinness, and it has a stronger and more bitter taste than Smithwick's. The Kilkenny name was originally used during the 1980s and 1990s to market a stronger version of Smithwick's for the European and Canadian market due to local difficulty in pronunciation of the word "Smithwick's", but it now refers to a similar yet distinctly different beer.
  • Smithwick's Pale Ale was launched in 2011. The ale is made of pale ale malt, traditional Smithwick's yeast and Amarillo hops and has an ABV of 4.5%.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kilkenny Brewing Tour & Beer Tasting | Smithwick's Experience". Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  2. ^ "Kilkenny brewery set to be distilled into €3m visitor centre". 11 June 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  3. ^ Smithwick's Experience
  4. ^ Smithwick's History
  5. ^ Diageo – Smithwicks
  6. ^ Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into suggestions that members of An Garda Siochana or other employees of the State colluded in the fatal shooting of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Robert Buchanan on 20 March 1989 [verification needed]
  7. ^ Smithwick, Peter (1964). "The Sullivans - A Notable 19th Century Kilkenny Family" (PDF). The Old Kilkenny Review: 23–32.

External links[edit]