Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Smithwick's Irish Ale

Beer: Smithwick's Irish Ale
Brewed by: Guinness & Co., Dublin, Ireland (originally brewed by Smithwick's, Kilkenny, Ireland)
Style: Irish Red Ale
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: Unknown
Bottle: 12 fluid oz.
Served in: English pint glass
Place of purchase:
Trader Joe's
Price: $6.99 per 6 pack

So, here we are, the middle of March. The 17th, to be exact. Why do I have a strange inclination to eat boiled potatoes and soda bread while listening to The Pogues and drinking beer? OK, I always have an inclination to listen to The Pogues and drink beer, but all of it combined speaks quite strongly of - - Saint Patrick's Day! The celebration (at least here in the U.S.) of all things Irish: wearing o' the green and tons of other Irish stuff, most importantly, drinking. Yes, drinking. Drinking beer. And drinking whiskey (notice the spelling, boyo?) Wait, that's a whole different blog!

OK, back to drinking beer. Jugsy & I, having been to the British Isles (including Ireland) many, many times, did some very serious searching for a beer to review at this specific time. Of course, we could have chosen Guinness Stout or Harp Lager (both fine beers!) but we decided on a brew that is not as readily available, or at least, is not as well known, here in the U.S.

Smithwick's Irish Ale is celebrating it's 300th anniversary this year, having started its brewing operation at the St. Francis Abbey brewery in Kilkenney, Ireland in 1710. A family tradition of brewing resulted over the next 300 years and gives us the beer we have for review today.

In passing, here are a couple of famous Irish sayings - ones that we love; just to get you in to the St. Patty's Day spirit:

"There are many good reasons for drinking,
One has just entered my head.
If a man doesn't drink when he's living,
How in the hell can he drink when he's dead?"

"Here's to a long life and a merry one
A quick death and an easy one
A pretty girl and an honest one
A cold beer and another one!"

In every proper review, your trusted husband & wife team of Beeraucrats will examine the Appearance, Aroma, Taste, Mouthfeel, Drinkability and Overall Rating of the Beer and arrive at a Total Score from 1 to 10.

Smithwick's Irish Ale


Deep bronze color. Dark amber when held to light. Creamy looking head that dissipates quite quickly. Slight bit of carbonation visible. Very little lacing left on glass.
Jugsy: Clear, copper/red in color with a thick, frothy head that dissipates to a thin, white head. Very little carbonation can be seen. No lacing left behind.


Mugsy: Slight bit of yeast. Some malt comes through also. Not a strong aroma at all.
Jugsy: Delicate scent of mild yeast and hops. Smells slightly sweet and fresh, a hint of peppermint candy and pine cones.


Mugsy: First and foremost is a "cheesy" taste. I can only assume that this is attributable to the yeast. Slightly sweet malt is present, as well. While the hops couldn't be detected with scent, they do come through here, if only very slightly. Slight toasted nut after taste and very slight chocolate, caramel and coffee become present as the beer warms.
Jugsy: Unusual combination of yeast (Irish soda bread?) and roasted coffee/malts. There's a skunky bitterness from the hops that becomes a very pronounced middle-note before the yeast and coffee re-appear. Aftertaste is bitter sourdough. As the beer warms, a distinctly nutty and pleasant taste (and aftertaste) emerges.


Mugsy: Quite a nice feel. Very creamy. Slightly bitter bite on the tongue. Goes down without any "soupiness" but with just enough substance to make sure you know that this has some weight to it. As beer warms just past its perfect temperature, it does get a little watery feeling, though.
Jugsy: The initial expectation is of creaminess, but this beer actually ends up being a little on the thin side.


Mugsy: At 4.5% ABV, it would obviously be no problem for a serious beer drinker (who me?) to throw back many of these, however, the watery finish as the beer warms past its point of perfection is a slight turn-off for me and makes me think twice. Guess I'll just have to drink the next several Smithwick's much more quickly!
Jugsy: At 4.5% ABV, this is a classic "session" beer and I'm pretty sure Mugsy would have to drink a gallon of it just to feel a buzz! The beer needs to warm somewhat in order for it to reveal its full character. Quite drinkable!


Mugsy: Quite well balanced. Not overdone on any aspect, making this an obvious choice for the first pint at the pub on the way home from work. It all comes down to, as mentioned so many times before, "would I drink this beer again?" And the answer is "Yes - but I wouldn't necessarily seek it out." Not a bad beer by any means (and believe me, I've had some pretty bland beers in the British Isles), I just feel that there are so many better, more interesting beers out there on which I would rather spend my money. Let's put it this way - the next time I go shopping for a great beer, am I going to head straight for the Smithwick's? If it's St. Patty's Day, then it would certainly be one of the two or three Irish beers I would select. Otherwise, no. However, the next time I find myself in Ireland or anywhere in the British Isles (as Jugsy and I often do, believe it or not) then Smithwick's would definitely be one of the beers on rotation at the pub. Would pair very well with rich St. Patty's day foods and equally well with rich, creamy desserts.
Jugsy: I'd love to be in Ireland, drinking this ale alongside a talkative, old pub-regular, nestled in the supernaturally green and misty countryside. There's something in this beer that I can't put my finger on, but when I taste it, I know I'm drinking either an Irish or a Scottish ale. Yeast strain, perhaps? Peaty water? I don't know, but it makes me a bit nostalgic.

Mugsy: 5.0
Jugsy: 6.0

From both of us at Beeraucracy, we wish you a very happy Saint Patrick's Day!!


  1. Irish beer joke:

    A man is walking down the street in Dublin and stumbles into a package on the ground, but he then realizes it’s not a package at all, it’s a Leprechaun!

    The man says, “alright, Leprechaun, give me your pot of gold!”

    The Leprechaun replies, “we don’t do it that way anymore. It’s now more like a genie, and you get three wishes. What will it be, lad, for your first wish?”

    The man thinks, then replies “I’d like a bottomless pint of Guinness.”

    The Leprechaun says “done” and snaps his fingers and, sure enough, in the man’s hands appears a pint of Guinness.

    The man drinks it down, and magically it fills up to the top again.

    The man looks at the Leprechaun and says, “that’s quite amazing!”

    The Leprechaun replies, “it sure is, now what will you have for your next two wishes?”

    The man thinks for minute, and says, “I think I’ll have two more of these.”

  2. Another one:

    A Texan walks into an Irish pub and says, "I hear you Irishmen can hold your liquor. I'll pay $500 to any man who can drink 10 pints of Guinness back to back!" One man at the bar walks out of the pub, only to return 30 minutes later. He asks, "Is the bet still on"? The Texan says "Yes" and has the bartender set up 10 pints of Guinness on the bar. In less than 2 minutes, the Irishman downs them all. The Texan pays him the $500 but asks, "Why did you leave for 30 minutes"? The Irishman tells him: "I had to go to the pub down the street to practice to make sure I could do it!"

  3. Irish Trilogy - Part 2 - Smithwick's

    'Tis sure I'll be wearing the green,

    When the calendar says March seventeen,

    To help me to think,

    It Smithwick's I drink,

    Just try some, you'll know what I mean.

  4. Very affordable at 6.99 per 6 pack. Great review as always.