Our History | Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny

The History

At Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny, we know how to tell a great story. We don't want to jump the pint and tell our whole story before you visit, but we'll give you a few sips.

A City Steeped in Brewing Tradition

The Smithwick's story starts long before a Smithwick ever set foot in Kilkenny. In the 13th century, monks settled at St. Francis Abbey. For more than 300 years the Abbey grew in size. However, the arrival of Henry VIII and the Reformation in 1537 meant that the Abbey was forced to close its doors.

Read More

The History

At Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny, we know how to tell a great story. We don't want to jump the pint and tell our whole story before you visit, but we'll give you a few sips.

A City Steeped in Brewing Tradition

The Smithwick's story starts long before a Smithwick ever set foot in Kilkenny. In the 13th century, monks settled at St. Francis Abbey. For more than 300 years the Abbey grew in size. However, the arrival of Henry VIII and the Reformation in 1537 meant that the Abbey was forced to close its doors.

A Determination to Succeed

When John Smithwick moved to Kilkenny in the early 1700s to forge a life for himself, the penal laws for Catholics were in full swing, meaning he couldn't own property or run for elected office. In spite of this, shortly after his arrival in Kilkenny, John went into the brewing business with Richard Cole on a piece of land that Cole had leased from the Duke of Ormond in 1705, who lived in Kilkenny Castle.

Image of John Smithwick

Quietly Confident but Cautiously Silent

John Smithwick spent decades stealthily using his wit and keeping his business affairs private. People liked doing business with the mysterious Mr. Smithwick. His was a name that had earned respect, although the laws still forbid him attaching it to anything. When penal laws were finally revoked in the late 1700's the Smithwicks were free to take their rightful place in Kilkenny society.

Expansion under Edmond Smithwick

Edmond Smithwick finally got the Smithwick name proudly over our gate in 1827. Under Edmond's leadership, trade increased massively in 10 years from 5,000 barrels to 40,000 barrels in 1860.

Image of John Smithwick

Knowing when to do what's Right

When famine hit in 1847, Edmond, who had been elected mayor of Kilkenny four times, and rival brewer Richard Sullivan put competition aside to set up a soup kitchen that would feed the poor and needy. Edmond also contributed to the construction of St. Mary's Cathedral and became a great supporter of Catholic Emancipation, a cause close to his family's heart.

Unwavering Endurance & Unbeatable Ingenuity

Edmond's sons followed him into the business, but in the late 1800's export sales began to fall. In response, Smithwick's increased production in their maltings, began selling mineral water and even delivered butter with the ale from the back of their drays. The business survived and in 1892 Smithwick's won 1st prize in Dublin's Rotunda Exhibition of Brewers and Distillers.

Image of Smithwick Pint

Kilkenny's No.1 Becomes Everyone Else's No.1

In 1930, James's son Walter took control. In addition to incentivising his sales crew, Walter Smithwick marketed his naturally-conditioned bottled ale as Smithwick's No.1 and large slogans referring to it began to appear on buses, trams and in newspapers all over Ireland.

His campaign showed remarkable foresight. On the 8th of Oct 1937 Smithwick's No.1 won first prize at the London Bottled Beer Competition. The company now had a national brand superior to all of its competitors.

Read More

Kilkenny's No.1 Becomes Everyone Else's No.1

In 1930, James's son Walter took control. In addition to incentivising his sales crew, Walter Smithwick marketed his naturally-conditioned bottled ale as Smithwick's No.1 and large slogans referring to it began to appear on buses, trams and in newspapers all over Ireland.

His campaign showed remarkable foresight. On the 8th of Oct 1937 Smithwick's No.1 won first prize at the London Bottled Beer Competition. The company now had a national brand superior to all of its competitors.

Smithwicks Red Ale
Blonde Ale
Pale Ale

Smithwick's is Here to Stay

The Smithwick's name had come to mean something to drinkers. Nine generations of Smithwick men worked all their lives to make so. It spoke of quality, reliability and the perfect marriage of technology and tradition. It spoke of independence, confidence and triumph over adversity. Today, you'll find those same qualities in every pint of Smithwick's and in everyone involved in making it.

Smithwicks is still brewed to the highest standards today and continues to be enjoyed worldwide. To learn more about the rich history of Smithwicks and how it is made, book a tour of Smithwicks Experience Kilkenny.

Read More

Smithwick's is Here to Stay

The Smithwick's name had come to mean something to drinkers. Nine generations of Smithwick men worked all their lives to make so. It spoke of quality, reliability and the perfect marriage of technology and tradition. It spoke of independence, confidence and triumph over adversity. Today, you'll find those same qualities in every pint of Smithwick's and in everyone involved in making it.

Smithwicks is still brewed to the highest standards today and continues to be enjoyed worldwide. To learn more about the rich history of Smithwicks and how it is made, book a tour of Smithwicks Experience Kilkenny.

Smithwicks Blonde Ale Smithwicks Red Ale Smithwick's Pale Ale Website red background for Smithwicks Experience Tour Website white background for Smithwicks Experience Tour Website red background for Smithwicks Experience Tour Visitors learning how to make Smithwicks beers at Smithwicks Experience Tour in Kilkenny Moving Portraits at Smithwicks Experience Tour in Kilkenny Moving Portraits at Smithwicks Experience Tour in Kilkenny