An Ale of Two Families.
Brewery Lost in a Bet.
|L-to-r: Bridget Smithwick, Alan Smithwick and Ian Hamilton (brewer).|
Deauville, a long-time magnet for Europe’s rich and famous, was all abuzz for the races in August 1918, even though the Great War was still being waged. One Irishman had set his sights on an aristocratic French fillé. He had opposition from a Venetian count. Sullivan, a gambler rather than a brewer, bet the family brewery on a horse to impress the Frenchwoman. He lost and, not fancying a duel with the count, had to settle his debts.
In Kilkenny, as a result of the wager, the Sullivan brewery (established 1702), eight years before Smithwick’s, was taken over by their rivals (“in a kind of a white knight rescue”) and the Sullivan name vanished from the enterprise. Another hundred years on and, in 2014, Diageo moved the production of Smithwick's to Dublin.
|Pierce Brosnan, another Irishman whose name pops up in Deauville|
But the Sullivan story has been revived over the past year or two with the emergence of a new Sullivan brewery, backed by the two intertwined families, the Sullivan’s and, yes, the Smithwick’s (keen to keep Kilkenny’s brewing tradition going).
And, already, their Maltings Red Ale has been declared the “best Draught Ale in the World” at the International Brewing Awards, also known as the Oscars of the beer world. They are the 1st Irish Brewery ever to win this competition that hosted over 1,200 beers from 50 countries. Isn't that a nice welcome back for Sullivan’s?
Sullivan’s were represented in Cork City Hall at the weekend for the Franciscan Well Great Irish Beer Festival. Bandon educated brewer Ian Hamilton said their ale can be found in Ireland, England and Scotland. C & C is their distributor but Sullivan’s “is totally independent”.
I had missed out on a chance to sample the ale on a recent visit to Kilkenny so was delighted to try it in the City Hall. It is a delightful refreshing beer, with a ruby tinted colour, lots of flavour, yet very well balanced with an ABV of just four per cent. Three darker malts and three hops are merged here, so there’s a lot going on. Yet, it is so well made and balanced that it is easy drinking and easy to see why the judges went for it at the International Beer Awards in the UK.
Well worth seeking out. And if you are in Kilkenny why not visit their Taproom, an outlet for the Smithwick partnership with direct descendants of the Sullivan family. Together with Ian Hamilton, one of Ireland’s most eminent contemporary master-brewers, they are bringing artisan brewing back to Kilkenny. It’s not just beer at the Taproom. You can have a pizza from their wood-fired oven and other tasty dishes as well. Prefer to eat and drink outdoors? Well, they have a fully covered outdoor, heated seating area. Details here.
|Ready to roll at Cork City Hall|
See full account of the Beer Fest here