Queues have already started forming in front of the new Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny on the city’s Parliament Street.
And yes it lives up to its expectations. Where else will you get Edmund Smithwick, the doyen of the brewing family, speaking live to the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell.
This happens in the family room where the portraits inter-act in a marvellous way and it is extremely funny and also historically accurate, providing a sense of the history of the place without getting bogged down in facts.
There are many highlights including the “ruby red” pint of Smithwicks at the end of the tour which is simply fantastic. From the moment you enter through the giant wooden, red doors on The Ring (behind Parliament Street) and into the red themed courtyard, with a banner, highlighting the 400 year brewing tradition at the site in the background, there is sense of expectancy and with people like the fabulous Rita Melia and hospitable Martin Hanrahan on hand to guide you, the visitor is immediately put at ease. This is real charm.
The journey starts in the old Cellar Bar where you get a “taste” of the history and where the various implements used in the brewing process remain on the ceiling while images of coopers and workers still adorn the walls.
Sam Walsh, also a city native, belies his age with his enthralling introduction to the place. It whets the appetite. In the next room entered through automatic doors, is a well crafted video on the history of the monks arrival on the site and the reason they made beer - Because they couldn’t trust the water. The images are fascinating and it’s like something out a Robin Hood film.
In the next room, the hologramed monk is the business and goes through the history of the place while a screen on his left goes through another seven minute segment film which includes images of the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1588 before the arrival of the Smithwicks family. Again, it is really well made, factual and entertaining.
Then you enter the Victorian world of the brewing family who gave the brewery its name and a framed copy of the charter given to them to allow beer to be brewed on the site is on view. Various other pieces of interest including a guide of the city from the 1800s show how much the city has changed, and not for the better.
After the family room, you are whisked into the technical area where you encounter the smells and tastes of brewing and the process is explained in a gentle and easily understood manner. Like how the barely is treated and the hops are added
You see the grinding machine mach machine and the filter system and there is a huge metal and glass vault, like something from the film, The Thomas Crown Affair where the secret yeast recipe is added, followed by fermentation. Then it’s through to the red themed bar area where the beer was perfectly chilled - Thanks Dave.
This will become an iconic part of Kilkenny’s tourist trail and very worthwhile for local people as well.
The opening coincided with the visit home from San Francisco of Sr Ann Maher who, in her youth, worked in the office at the brewery and has fantastic memories. She was overawed and when in the Cellar Bar while Sam Walsh was going through his paces, interrupted to say that he was right - the parties held in the Cellar Bar for staff were fantastic.
The shop is on your way out and you go into the shop from the street where the merchandise is good and available no where else.
Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny will be open from 10am-6pm daily.