I stood on the cliffs and let the wind hit my face, ever thankful that there was a stone wall centuries old for me to stand behind. I had never felt so free in my life. I wore my dark green corduroy pants and my sky blue raincoat: stylish I know, my sister would have killed me. This had been my uniform for almost the full 3 weeks of my trip in Ireland. We would have Irish history or literature class the night before and then go see the sights the next day. If you ever get the opportunity to visit Ireland, do not just go for the beer (although it was one of my favorite parts) but also go for the culture. Sit in a pub, in a town no bigger than a few blocks with complete strangers as you mumble the words to songs that they have been passing down for centuries. Throw back a few pints, sip on some whiskey as a man who just walked in off the street begins to play his guitar or Irish flute. The freedom to drink, sing, dance, and laugh is what I found in Ireland. While the cliffs and forests and fields took my breath away, the tastes and sounds of the pub will forever be with me.
This week, as I found time to write this post in between getting ready for my families annual trip to Michigan I started to think of all the places I’ve been, the one that made me feel most myself and most at home. It was a tie between the Lake House that I have gone to since I was two, and Ireland. I love them both and am excited to return to Northern Michigan after a three year hiatus. While I am there, I hope to bring you all some brews from another region of the country. However, this week as you may have guessed from my above ramblings…I will be revisiting Ireland through my love of beer with Smithwick’s. This is truly one of my favorite beers and the nice thing about it is, is that is readily available all over the country at many restaurants and liquor stores.
Smithwick’s is also near and dear to my heart because we visited the ancient monastery – St. Francis Abbey where John Smithwick began his brewing; he was stirred by the long history of brewing on the site. The Abbey in Kilkenny is still the center piece of the brewery today; they have been using the same recipe since 1710. I had trouble finding a clear-cut list of hops, malts, and yeasts. The best explanation I found was on the website, I’ll give you as good of a description as I can below. The growing of barley in Ireland can be found in some of the oldest manuscripts.
The main reason I enjoy Smithwick’s is because it’s predictable and available, yet distinguishable from your typical domestics. It’s light enough to enjoy on a summer evening and has enough flavor notes that you don’t feel like you are drinking water after a while. It does have an after taste to it, but it is mild. Honestly I really enjoy the initial taste of the beer; I find it to be crisp and refreshing. It is said to have fruity notes in its aroma, but I frankly don’t smell that. The aroma to me is very oaky and woody…I guess some would call it earthy. The taste matches that of the aroma and has an earthy finish. Part of the reason Smithwick’s is so refreshing is because it’s very light, the color is a deep mahogany. It may not be my go to if I have a lot of craft beers to explore that I haven’t seen before…but after my 3rd or 4th it’s nice to have a break without switching to a really light, dull lager of some sort. I guess you could say that Smithwick’s tastes like home to me and I find comfort in its regularity and reliability. All in all, I give Smithwick’s 4 out of 5 pints, but like I said…I’m bias.
To Pour: Traditionally served in a pint glass or a beer mug. You don’t have to worry about a lot of head in this beer, but tip the glass non-the-less and pour.
– Fuggles: Earthy, fruity, and vegetal. Usage is flavor, aroma, and bittering.
– Goldings: Smooth and kind of sweet. Usage is flavor, aroma, and bittering.
Malts: Barely specialty malts lending flavors of biscuit and caramel.
Yeast: fruitiness and slight dry crispiness
*For specified brewing information follow this link to the Smithwick’s website: http://www.smithwicks.ie/brewing-tradition.html
Brewed Awakening, Joshua M. Bernstein