13TH CENTURY
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 with quality water straight from the Friar’s well, and using natural ingredients that surrounded the abbey in abundance these monks began brewing on the site.
IRISH MADE
A DETERMINATION TO SUCCEED
Shortly after Smithwick’s 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. He worked hard and obviously impressed because in 1710 he became the owner (albeit a secret one). With a taste of success his confidence grew and in time so did his business interests.
IRISH MADE
1800-1846
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
Edmond Smithwick, son of John Smithwick II, was born in 1800 and like his grandfather brewing and ambition were in his blood. When he was just 27 he bought the brewery back freehold and for the first time the Smithwick family name hung proudly above the door. He proved himself a natural businessman. At a time when breweries were closing all over Ireland he concentrated on discovering new markets.
IRISH MADE
1847
KNOWING WHEN TO DO WHAT’S RIGHT
The people of the city gave Edmond the respect he deserved and four times voted him Mayor of Kilkenny. When famine hit in 1847, he and rival brewer Richard Sullivan put competition aside to set up a soup kitchen to feed the needy. He generously contributed to St. Mary’s Cathedral and supported Catholic Emancipation, a cause close to his heart. Edmond became great friends with the Irish Liberator Daniel O’Connell who later became godfather to his son Daniel O’Connell Smithwick.
IRISH MADE
1848-1882
EXTRA CARE MAKES AN EXTRAORDINARY BREW
Edmond started a tradition of always employing the most skilled people. Expert brewers brought scientific and technical innovations and the result gave Smithwick’s beers a quality second to none.
IRISH MADE
1892
UNWAVERING ENDURANCE, UNBEATABLE INGENUITY
Edmond’s sons followed him into the business. In the late 1800’s export sales began to fall, but the Smithwick family found a way: they increased production in their maltings, began selling mineral water and even delivered butter with the ale from the back of their drays. Times were tight but the business survived and in 1892 Smithwick’s won 1st prize in Dublin’s Rotunda Exhibition of Brewers and Distillers.
IRISH MADE
1900
TRIUMPH AGAINST ALL ODDS
James Smithwick, or Mr. James as he was known, took the reigns in 1900. At the time Smithwick’s employed 200 people but output was down to 10,000 barrels per annum. The fortunes of the company were at an all time low. Auditors recommended the brewery shut its doors but the Smithwick instinct for survival said “no” and the family dug deep into their own pockets to keep the business going.
IRISH MADE
1930-1937
KILKENNY’S Nº1 BECOMES EVERYONE’S Nº1
In 1930, James’s son Walter took control. He realised distribution was the key to success and began incentivising sales agents all over Ireland. On top of salaries, they earned a commission on every barrel sold. He also purchased petrol driven lorries to serve customers in the remote west of Ireland. On the 8th of Oct 1937 Smithwick’s No.1 won first prize at the London Bottled Beer Competition.
IRISH MADE
1939-1945
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
World War II brought more challenges. When increased petrol charges made delivery by truck too expensive, James used his ingenuity and quickly found another route. Beer heading west went by barge and the rest got to its destination by train or by horse cart. Raw materials were scarce so he looked for alternatives: Oats were used instead of barley and Irish Beet Sugar was used instead of West Indian candy sugar.
IRISH MADE
1947
FLOODS AND GOOD FORTUNE
After the War business was looking good, then in 1947 melting snows caused a major flood, submerging the entire brewery. Luckily all the precious recipes and technical reports were safely stored high on the third floor. In no time the brewery was back in action but the summer that followed was the worst on record. Heavy rains caused a national emergency, threatening cereal crops. Disaster was avoided and the nation was saved from a minor famine and a major lack of great ale.
IRISH MADE
1864-1966
BRILLIANT PARTNERSHIP INVENTS A NEW BREW
In 1964 one of Smithwick’s oldest maltings customers, Guinness & Co, bought a controlling share in the business. Peter Smithwick took his reins. His fresh determination and inventiveness combined with the expertise of the Guinness sales force produced one of the greatest success stories of any beer in this century. Together they developed and launched Smithwick’s Draught in 1966.
IRISH MADE