SMITHWICKS have just launched a new, 100% craft beer on the market - its first venture since 1983 - and already the brewing community, both here and beyond, is giddy with expectation.
Smithwicks Pale Ale is now on draught and in bottles at selected stores nationwide - and 15 counters in the county have it on offer to customers at the moment.
It’s a huge vote of confidence in the Smithwicks brand - a brand that has seen a resurgence in the last two years in particular.
As we all go back to our roots when times are tough - you only have to look at the variety of those little sweet shops with the bulls eyes and clove drops everywhere - Smithwicks has also seen a comeback.
And capitalsing on this is the new Pale Ale. Last Wednesday morning, in the traditional setting of Cleere’s, I had the pleasure of tasting the new draught with the man running Smithciwks brewery, Ian Hamilton. Ian Hamilton is a brewer with a wealth of experience - worldwide.
And while it may sound strange to point out that a brewer is running our local, 301 year old brewery, business does not always work out like that.
In this case - it’s certainly the better for it. Ian, as a brewer, has a discerning palatte for a good beer, and is very enthusiastic about Smithwicks’ new produce.
“About two years ago we began developping the new beer, in a small pilot brewery,” said Ian. “Smitwhicks ale has made a strong comeback, and we decided to build on that, and offer our customers, who trust our brand and the quality behind it, something new,” he added.
And so the testing and tasting of Smithwicks Pale Ale began. And it was a veritable ‘Eureka’ moment as the first sample tried really went down a treat with the panel of tasters. Mo modficiations, the drawing board was put away and Smithwicks Pale Ale passed the test at the first attempt.
Ian may be me more familiar with palettes and aromas than I am - but like anyone else I know what I like. Smithwicks Pale Ale gives an instantly fresh impression. It smells of freshness, looks like a lager and to be honest swings more towards lager drinkers than ale men (or women).
So it’s going to perk the curiosity of the traditional Smithwicks drinker, and also be attractive to the many lager drinkers out there - could it be the perfect pint?
“It’s the amarillo hops (imported from the USA) which gives it its distinctive flavour” remarked Ian as he explained that Smithwicks have not produced a Pale Ale in 100 years and then it was India Pale Ale because, basically it lasted well in a bottle and made Bombay for the troops of the Empire.
“The pale ale is quite different to Smithwicks. The caramel colour isn’t there, the spice from the hops is different, overall I am delighted with it.”
And a few further sidenotes to ensure Smithwicks’ profile continues to grow.
Trip Adviser has listed its number one tourist attraction in Kilkenny - and it’s not the Castle but the Smithwicks Brewery tour.
And following on from brewing gold last year, this latest craft beer, may be in line for further awards should the brewery decide to enter it in the many international competitions.
But the bit of science that fascinated me most was the yeast. John Smithwick, when he first brewed here locally, would have found local yeast cultivating - possibly in an apple, as Ian explained. And generation after generation of brewer in Kilkenny propagated that native yeast in various cultures. And not even a change in production equipment, like the modernisation of vats from stone, deterred the tempermental yeast from staying in its Smithwicks home. So every pint you drink, be it the new Pale Ale or otherwise - has that tangible link with the first yeast provided by John Smithwick for his very first beer.
And on a further traditional note - the bottle looks very appealing too. So Smithwick’s can introduce a new, distincitve product and stay true to its roots in response to market demand. That’s almost as cool as that crisp pint in Cleere’s last Wednesday before lunch - breaking the habit of a lifetime but it was worth it.