The Quest For A Perfect Smithwick’s in Dublin 


Posted 1 month ago in Food & Drink Features

Among the things we talk about in the pub on repeat generation-to-generation is ‘what makes a perfect pint’. There are official parameters. There’s science. There are cultural notions, and there are undeniable legends, mythos and hearsay that compound into what we know to be true but can’t prove. That’s the magic. But in all these conversations, we talk about Guinness.

Type ‘what makes a perfect pint’ into the search engine of your choice, and your first hit will be Diageo talking about their beloved money maker. But there’s more to Ireland than Guinness. There’s Smithwick’s, too.

Smithwick’s is a funny one. It has its devotees, but most Irish people could go their whole lives without even thinking to try it. When Diageo suggested they might sell it because it’s a drain on their resources to float a low-margin legacy beer, the people were distraught. Not our beloved Smithey, they hollered on Reddit and Twitter.

Founded in 1710 by John Smithwick in Co. Kilkenny, the brewery’s journey mirrors the tumultuous history of Ireland itself. Smithwick was a Catholic, and the penal laws prevented him from owning property, holding office or putting his name on his own beer. However, he was still able to enter the brewing business with Richard Cole, a protestant.

With its rich ruby hue and frothy white head, Smithwick’s has long been a staple in the glasses of cult contrarians. But while we debate endlessly about the merits of a perfect pint of plain, it seems we’ve forgotten to make criteria for Smithwick’s.

With Smithwick’s, there’s no talk about consistent pipes, short lines, great pours, or dirty glasses covered in nondescript ‘residue’. No one mentions ‘bad’ kegs or cellar temperatures. No one sticks their pinkie in a pint of Smithy to tell you if the viscosity is right or does the double-tilt-side-to-side yoke.

 

When you check the official Smithwick’s website, there is nothing about what makes a perfect pint. So, I reached out to the popular Twitter account @DublinByPub to ask how he would go about ranking Smithwick’s. He said, “I need to check out the criteria for marking Smithwick’s.” Even the professional pub goes don’t know where to put our lad Smithy.

@DublinbyPub added, “With the way the younger folk are drinking less, it could be ripe for being the next big thing.” And looking around you wouldn’t argue with him. I was at a wedding in Mayo recently where there was an even spread of pinters on Smithwick’s and Guinness.

I think it’s safe to say that the quest for the perfect Smithwick’s is in its infancy. We’ll likely see it grow the way we did with Guinness after @ShitLondonGuinness, @TheProperPints, and The Guinness Advisor cropped up.

In my quest to really identify the quintessentially perfect Smithy, I turned to the first of that ilk; @SmithwicksAdvisor on Instagram. Like the @GuinnessGuru before them, they traipse from bar to par rating pints for all the world to see. Most surprisingly every single one seems to rank around a 7. I reached out to the account for the set of criteria they use to independently grade the Smithwick’s of our fair city, but alas, at the time of writing, I had yet to receive a reply.

With all professional avenues turning up nada I went direct to consumer on this one. The biggest Smithwick’s Supremicist I know is Adrian Errity. A proud Dublin 8 man he is a Smithwick’s evangelical who genuinely believes we have all been gaslit into thinking Guinness is good.

When asked, he declared swiftly and without hesitation that, “A perfect Smithwick’s is one that keeps its head all the way to the bottom”.  A clean and simple metric. He added that in most Dublin pubs, it’s ‘too fizzy’, with an air of authority reserved exclusively for people who have never worked in the bar industry.

Apparently, only the bartenders of The Lord Edward can tell you how to balance the gas correctly to get a good head on a Smithwick’s that lasts to the bottom of the glass. That is Adrian’s tipety-top Smithwick’s in Dublin. “Pure pint perfection,” he said.

The Smithwick’s at The Lord Edward maintains timeless appeal with a classic pour that highlights the flavour profile of caramel, biscuit, and subtle hops—a recipe for satisfaction that has endured the test of time and the penal laws.

Can anyone match The Lord Edward’s top-notch Smithwick’s? Will it become the a go-to pint for the youth reared on Guinness gaslighting? Will we start to see the Irish in London mocking pints of Smithwick’s across the Irish Sea? Only time will tell, but in the words of Dublin by Pub himself, “What a time to be alive.”

Words: Shamim De Brún

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