51 Smithwick’s


“Smithwick’s is Irelands number one ale” (Rate Beer, 2019, p. 1). The beer provides exceptional taste, distinctive colour and a variety of different ingredients that makes the beer stand out (Rate Beer, 2019, p. 2). Its rich satisfying taste has brought the company to successful achievements such as medals and coming first place in beer competitions. The Smithwick family had a secret way of brewing their beer which made people fall in love with the taste. The family behind the brand never gave up. They pushed through the bad times within their company to reach their goals and got to the good times.

Smithwick’s is an Irish red ale styled beer. It was consumed mostly in Ireland.  Smithwick’s brewery was founded in Kilkenny in 1710 by John Smithwick.  The beer itself was purchased in by Guiness back in 1965. (NewsTalk, 2019, p. 2).  “The story of this beer started with the 13th century monks at St. Francis Abbey who first began brewing as a method to purify water” (Ireland). The Smithwick’s family then moved to Kilkenny to provide a tastier ale. They kept their brewing process a secret. They swore to never share it with others outside of the company.

Smithwick’s beer has a long history. “Edmond Smithwick, son of John Smithwick already had the brewery and ambition was in his blood” (Histories De Comptoir).  At the age of 27, he bought the brewery freehold. For the first time the Smithwick family was proud. Business came natural for Edmond Smithwick, he focused on discovering new markets. He was very good at what he did that the city voted him mayor of Kilkenny. In 1847 a famine struck, this caused Richard Sullivan to set up a soup kitchen to feed and help support the needy (p6, Le Comptoir). Richard contributed to the construction of the St. Mary’s Cathedral and he supported the Catholics. Richard Sullivan was thoughtful with his actions and decisions. “Walter son of James Smithwick took control over the brewery” (p9 Le Comptoir). Distribution was the main priority. James Smithwick began to motivate sales agents across Ireland. This helped expand the beer and got people to fall in love with it. Smithwick’s beer won first place at the London Bottled Beer competition (Le Comptoir).

Things began to look up after the war. The business was doing well and was handled with care. Although things began to fall in 1947. “In 1947 the melting snow caused major flood submerging the entire brewery” (Le Comptoir). Luckily the valuables, reports and recipes were stored safely in a dry area. The weather was also affecting the farms and crops. There were many damages to the land. It was not a successful year for good beer. “In 1964, Guinness & Co, one of Smithwick’s oldest customers in the malting sector, acquired a majority share of the market” (Le Comptoir). Peter Smith then took control over the Smithwick’s company. He was determined and efficient with his work. This blended great with Guinness sales force. Smithwick’s has been one of the greatest success stories of all time (Le Comptoir).   

In conclusion the brand of beer Smithwick’s went through its ups and downs within the company. It was a family company; therefore, it was easy for them to pass it down to their son and other family members. Growing up with the company helped Walter son of James Smithwick learn about the industry quite quickly. They also had support and reliability with each family member. They provided a tastier ale; therefore, people fell in love with the drink.  Overall the Smithwick family was persistent and passionate about their beer. They believed in hard work and focused on small details.

Beer Style

Smithwicks is an Irish ale, brewed by Guinness and imported from Ireland. Smithwicks is a clear beer with a rich dark color to it. This beer has many strong sweet flavours which makes the beer stand out from the rest. It has a refreshing taste because of the hops that was added early in the boil. The traditional Smithwicks beer is 3.8% of alcohol. The Smithwick’s Pale Ale is 4.5% of alcohol. Smithwicks IBU is 20, ABV 5%, Aroma is mild and malty sweetness, the flavour is smooth, the smell is malty and this beer pairs perfectly well with corn beef and irish beef stew.

Smithwick’s Marketing and Branding

Smithwicks is one of Ireland’s historic beer. It has a long journey of developing and growing its taste over the years. Smithwicks captured the attention of many and is a very popular drink. Smithwicks has over 300 years of brewing experience. The brand wanted to give out the message of, “We believe that if people try it they will enjoy it because it is here to stay for the long-term.” Smithwick’s Pale Ale is available at 350 different outlets nationwide. Smithwicks brand celebrates the ups and downs with there brewing of the beer. Smithwicks ads want to bring together the home brewers across Ireland, who are pursuing their passion for creating great ales. Over the years Smithwicks has developed into a new package and design. Which celebrates the brand rich Irish heritage and its link to Kilkenny brewing. The design was created by illustrator, Peter Donnelly. The color pattern is inspired from original labels and brewery signage around Ireland.

Smithwick’s History

Smithwicks has a long history. Smithwicks was brewed in Ireland and is an Irish ale. Smithwick’s was founded by John Smithwick in 1710. In 1800 export sales began to fall and the industry faced some challenges. The Smithwicks family decided to increase production in their maltings and started selling mineral water and butter from the back of their drays. In 1966 Smithwicks and Guinness & Co created and launched Smithwick’s draught. The brand became very successful they sold half a million barrels each year. In 1980 Smithwicks began exporting to France. Smithwicks draught became Canada’s leading imported ale. Smithwicks continued to be brewed to Dundalk and Kilkenny with tankers sent to dublin to be tanked on the trade market. In December 2013 production in Kilkenny brewery finished. Smithwicks is now being produced in the St.James Gate. During WW1 Ireland went through famine, mass emigration and revalution. During the potato famine from 1845 to 1849, 1 million of the Irish population died and another 1 million Irish migrated to America and England. This caused the Irish population to decline by 25%. Luckily this did not affect Smithwicks brand. Smithwicks Beer survived the great depression and expanded production during WWI and WWII. Yet Smithwicks could not survive globalization.

Smithwicks Mergers

Smithwicks merger is Guinness, which are both owned by Diageo. Together they launched a Draught Ale in 1966. Diageo is a British Beer company that owns multiple different ales originated from different areas. Smithwicks did not survive globalization due to the lack of import and exports to other countries to help expand their product. Smithwick merged with Guinness because the brand was owned by a well known beer company “Diageo”.

Science and Brewing of Smithwicks

Six tons of malt are used for every brew. Milling mixing the husk and flour which brewers called grist. The composition of the grist is very important. The husk and flour are monitored very closely, as this contributes to the character of the beer. The grist is then brewed with water at a temperature of 65 degrees celsius, this process is called mashing. This all takes place in a vessel called a mash tun. During mashing starches in the malt is converted into fermentable sugars. The next ingredients that are added to the mixture is hops. Boiling the hops and the wort together helps develop the flavour and color of the beer. After boiling the wort, it is then mixed in a whirlpool vessel where hops that are not needed are then removed. The next step is adding yeast to the mixture, yet Smithwicks is very particular with the type of yeast they use. They have actually created their own. The second last step is fermentation, fermentation then takes place in a vessel for about three to four days. Finally the beer is then examined.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfhoXVGFU1I

Image result for diagrams of detailed drinking and driving labels on beers

Modern Era

A modern trend that has impacted Smithwicks beer has been a legal trend. In Ireland there has been a decline in underage alcohol consumption from 2016 to 2017. Ireland beer producers are required to have a warning label on their beer brands, such as Smithwicks. Smithwicks was the first brand that introduced warning labels on their beers. “The labels introduced will help consumers make informed a clear choices when buying alcohol” (Ring). These labels will help inform the dangers of underage drinking and the health issues that could affect individuals. Some dangers of underage drinking could be car crashes, suicides, being involved in a crime and violent behaviour. Health problems that underage drinking can cause is, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, alcohol poisoning and can also change hormones in the body such as disrupting growth and puberty. It is now apart of the law that all Ireland brands such as Smithwicks have to provide a label that prevents underage drinking. Here is a short one minute video that explains the dangers of underage alcohol consumption, both safety and health causes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl1WF54JHOE. Smithwicks beer now provides detailed nutrition information such as preventing pregnant women from consuming alcohol, preventing drinking and driving, nutritional facts and ingredients used. Providing detailed nutritional labels on Smithwicks beer will inform consumers what they are drinking and how it can affect them. Even though this is something everyone should know, the labeling provides awareness and it shows that the Smithwicks brand cares. Many individuals will feel much better about buying beers through a company that cares about their consumers.


Examiner, E. R. I. (2016, June 30). Smithwicks is first brand to detail nutritional info on beer labels. Retrieved from



CDC – Fact Sheets-Underage Drinking – Alcohol. (2018, August 2). Retrieved from



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Beer Through the Ages Copyright © by Jordanne Christie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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