Wednesday 24th June 2015
Kilkenny has in the past been one of the main centres of Ireland’s brewing industry. There are hop gardens in the area and the land between it and Dublin is cultivated with many fields of barley which is malted for Irish brewers.
The last industrial brewery here was Smithwick’s, part of the Guinness empire. It closed on the last day of 2013 and the buildings are now the Smithwick’s Experience, a sort of interactive museum of lost brewing.
This brewery and the city have long been known for their Pale Ales. It is maybe forgotten that even up to the 1960s smaller breweries produced pale and / or red ales.
Since the Second World War Guinness accelerated its policy of buying them up and closing them down, so by 1970 Stout was almost ubiquitous throughout the country.
Since then however, Lager has made considerable inroads into the totals. Interestingly, the drinkers of Kilkenny are noted for their continued liking of Pale Ales.
Just a little about the city. It is very small yet its status is confirmed by the fact that it possesses two cathedrals. St Canice’s is of the Church of Ireland denomination and St Mary’s is Roman Catholic. It also has a castle and is a tourist destination. The population of the city proper is just under 9,000 inhabitants; there are many more in the surrounding catchment area. It’s 63 miles from Dublin and is on the main Dublin to Waterford railway line. In fact, the trains reverse their direction in Kilkenny railway station before continuing their journeys.
The pivotal day for this pub was 19th April 2013 when it was opened by Carlow Brewing Co. (O’Hara’s beers) of nearby Bagelnalstown, Co Carlow. Their brewery is around 20 kms (14 miles) from Kilkenny and there is a separate article on it in BeerVisits.
The pub has had a rather chequered past. It was Widow McGrath’s until 2010, when it closed. Since then it had been Dignity, a gay bar, and also some time as a dubious club. Since it was re-opened by Carlow Brewing as the Brewery Corner it has gone from strength to strength.
I visited during a three hour break in a steam train odyssey around the country. For most of the time I was working the bar car of this R.P.S.I. (Railway Preservation Society of Ireland) special train, it was a lot of fun. However this was a day off and I could indulge myself a little. I was there shortly after the 13.00 opening and was joined by a few others from the train, including regular travelling and drinking companion, Patrick.
The pub is in a prominent position along Parliament Street. Coming from the city centre the pub is the fifth in a line of no less than seven adjacent pubs! Please see photo left for confirmation.
I’ve seen two or three together in Belgium and there is a row of four cider houses in five consecutive premises in Sachsenhausen, Frankfurt. Yet I’ve never seen anything like this before!
The former Smithwick’s brewery is also back about 100 metres (yards) towards the centre.
Adjusting my eyes to encompass the dark interior I had a look around. It is a one-room pub with the bar on the left towards the end. The floor is partially covered with wooden floorboards. The bar counter is a nice carved dark wood example with high seats in front. There are a number of tables and chairs at the front of the pub and the wall here is exposed stone. At the back is an outside drinking (smoking?) area.
There were thirteen beer taps and these dispensed O’Hara’s Irish Stout (4.3%) and Irish Red Ale (4.3%). Both of these featured nitrogen dispense.
There was also O’Hara’s Natural Blonde (4.3%); Hop Adventure (5.0%); Spring Saison (4.4%); Amber Adventure (4.1%); Double IPA (7.5%); Leann Folláin Extra Stout (6.0%); O’Hara’s Irish Lager (4.3%); Dunkelweizen (5.0%) (Dark Wheat) and Red Ale (4.3%), this time dispensed with CO2.
They also had Metalman (Waterford) Pale Ale (4.3%) and their own Fallen Apple cider (4.5%).
I noticed a solitary hand pump on the end of the counter and asked the barman if it was in use. He said it was, but only at weekends, sadly. Their kitchen opened in November 2013 and features pizzas. There is also a “pie and a pint” deal. Should you ever be in Kilkenny for touristic or other reasons, this pub is a must. In its first year of operation it was awarded “Irish Craft Beer Pub of the Year 2013”.
The Brewery Corner, 29 Parliament Street, Kilkenny. Tel: 056 780 5081
Hours: Monday-Thursday 13.00-23.30; Friday-Saturday 13.00-00.30; Sunday 13.00-23.00
Kilkenny station is served by trains on the Dublin to Waterford line. The journey time from Dublin is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.
From the station either go down the steps or along the curved approach road to Dublin Road. Turn right and continue to the road junction. Here, turn left into John Street. Continue along here and cross the bridge over the River Nore.
Then, take the second road on the right, St Kieran’s Street. Go to the end and right into Parliament Street. You will see the old Smithwick’s brewery on the right. Shortly after, on the left, you will see the row of seven consecutive pubs. Your destination is the fifth, the blue one! It is about 3/4 mile (1 km) from the station.