Thursday, 8 August 2019

Brewing History: Some Notes on Pre-Twentieth Century Kilkenny Breweries


From 'The Official Illustrated Guide to the Great Southern & Western Railway' - 1866

The early brewing history of Ireland is often quite murky, and trying to pinpoint the exact position of breweries and the brewers that operated in any give location is quite a tricky job until we get to the era of commercial directories, better record keeping, accurate maps and archived content of newspapers. Even after that point the history and development of breweries is difficult to track, especially beyond The Pale. Kilkenny's brewing history is similar in one way but somewhat different in another, as much of that history is difficult to clearly see due to being muddied by decades of marketing spiel which has been repeated and reprinted over the years.

But I have found a couple of trustworthy sources when trying to track down the historic commercial breweries of Kilkenny. The first is ‘The Brewing Industry in Kilkenny’ by T. B. Halpin which was published in the ‘Old Kilkenny Review’ in 1989. The second is the ‘Irish Historic Towns Atlas, no. 10, Kilkenny’ by John Bradley, who references the previous article quite often in his own work. Along with these two excellent sources I have come across other information from both online resources and archived papers accessed in my local library which give some interesting insights into brewing in the city in the 18th and 19th century. These are backed up by various commercial directories of the time, where many similar names crop up over the years often in different locations which adds to the headache of unravelling who brewed where. We need to be careful that malt houses are not being confused with actual breweries too, as these are often separate entities although both can coexist on the same site of course. With all of these names it’s also worth remembering that the owner and the actual brewer in these establishments were quite often different people, which adds yet another layer of complexity to any research.

I should point out that I am not a Kilkenny local and have relied purely on sources referenced above and cited below for this post, nor am I a historian so I would welcome clarification of any the issues, dates or comments made here. Please feel free to read any of the articles, newspaper clippings and other sources I reference and get back to me on any points.

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A snapshot of the ebb and flow of breweries is given by Bradley as:

“In 1787 there were ten breweries in the city, by 1824 the number had declined to five, and in 1837 it had fallen to four. There was evidently a flurry of activity in the years immediately following because by 1839 the number had increased to eight, but the expansion was short-lived. In 1841 there were five breweries and by 1856 there were only two — St Francis' Abbey (Smithwicks) and James's Street (Sullivans).”1

The earliest reference for a brewery location is on Pudding Lane in 1660, and the earliest mention of a named brewer is for a Miles Lyons in an unknown location in 1691 but the earliest mention by name and location is James’s Street Brewery established by a person named Archdeakin in 17021 and Bradley suggests there was brewing on this site before this date. (Some years later a Mathias Archdekin[sic] occupied a brewery and Distillery near Blackmill up until 1821which I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere.) The brewery on James's Street appears to have passed through different hands - A John Hennessy was a brewer on this street at least in 17883 - before becoming vacant in 1790. It was purchased and reopened by William Sullivan and William Loughnane in 18104 and it appears to have stayed in the Sullivan family until it closed around 1914 (or 1917/1918). The premises was later taken over by Smithwick’s and used as a maltings4 - unfortunately the site is now a carpark for Market Cross Shopping Centre, although I found a c.1946 photo of the ivy covered entrance to the brewery in Halpin’s article and online here with another view here. (Curiously there is mention of an Anchor Brewery on James’s Street in 1859 which Bradley suggests may be the same site as Sullivan’s Brewery, but I doubt this to be the case. There is a George Reade brewing in James' Place in 1839so perhaps there is some confusion over sites, as is often the case in brewing history.)

An interesting aside to the actual brewing process, which helps to point to all the auxiliary jobs associated with breweries that are rarely considered, is that in 18976 only Sullivan’s were using solely local cut corks to bottle their beers, Smithwick’s used a mix imported and locally made ones.

For examples of what was brewed in the city in the 19th century, advertisements from 18957 show that Sullivan’s were brewing a pale butt, a double stout, sparkling ales and hop bitters as well as manufacturing and bottling Mineral waters. I'm pretty sure that they were brewing more than just these over the years too, I'll keep an eye out and update here if I find more.


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Perhaps the biggest mover and shaker in Kilkenny brewing was started by Edmund Smithwick who opened St. Francis Abbey Brewery around 1827 after acquiring the site of Bren(n)an’s distillery in that year. (Just to note that Brennan is a surname that crops up repeatedly in the names of brewers/distillers in the various commercial directories – although admittedly it if a very common local name.) The site is listed as a distillery at St. Francis’s Abbey run by Patrick Brenan[sic] in Pigot’s Directory of 1824, and the following year he was producing 26,000 gallons of spirit according to custom and excise reports for the period. An advertisement for its letting at this time clearly say it is a distillery that could be converted into a brewery8. Edmund is listed as a grocery and a wine merchants in Pigot’s also in 1824 and was in partnership with and Owen C. O’Callaghan – this partnership was dissolved in July 1827 along with a similar partnership for a corn, flour and boulting business9, so his commercial interests where extensive but I can't find a mention of brewing until after the purchase of the St. Francis site.


So if there was any commercial ale brewing on the site before this time I can find no reliable record of it (which means just that of course), although Halpin – who worked in Smithwick’s - suggests there may have been brewing for personal consumption on or near this site by an ancestor of Edmund – John Smithwick – when he was in partnership with a Richard Cole. A messy article celebrating the brewery’s 275th anniversary10 mentions first brewing dates of both 1706 and 1710 as well as mentioning a free farm grant for a brewery and distillery close to the brewery site given to the above mentioned Cole. Curiously and article in the same paper 25 years before states that the firm of Smithwick’s was established in 1710 at the same time that Cole established a brewery, although as mentioned this seems to have been a retail brewery for household consumption. Any reliable auricles I have come across state there is little evidence of beer brewing on the site prior to 1827 and some even point out that the site's connection with the Smithwick’s family was broken with the death of John anyway.11 I have come across the story that the Smithwick’s could not officially declare their interest in the brewery prior to Catholic Emancipation due to Catholics not being allowed to own businesses, but it does not explain why Edmund, who owned a business in 1824 with O'Callaghan as we can see above, could not have put his name in directories or elsewhere at this time as a brewery owner with a different partner if such was the case? I personally think that a better claim may be that the Smithwick family were in business in Kilkenny from 1710 but - perhaps - not always in brewing ... maybe others can add more factual information to this.

George Measom in ‘The Official Illustrated Guide to the Great Southern & Western Railway’ mentions a visit to Edmond Smithwick’s brewery in 1866 where he sings the praises of the beer and the brewery while giving a nice description of the premises and supplying an excellent illustration of the site, which I have used at the start of this post. Interestingly he gives the date the brewery was established as 1828, presumably with the brewery's blessing at that time...

Anyhow, in 1897 Smithwick’s were brewing stouts and mild and bitter ales as well as an East India pale ale and a dinner ale12, and like Sullivan’s they also bottled mineral waters. No mention directly of a red ale of course but presumably one of these could be a red ... and I have written about a Smithwick's amber ale before, but any thoughts that the current famous brew is the same as any ale that may have been brewed in 1710 is pretty spurious in my opinion, to say the least.


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There are few other named breweries that I have come across, although there was also a St Mary's Brewery, Parliament St. ran by Robert Terry & Sons which opened around 1862 and was up for sale just two years later in 1864, what’s interesting about this is that it lists all of the equipment in the brewery such as an eight horse power steam engine, an O’Reilly’s large refrigerator, a sky cooler and fermenting squares, not to mention 600 casks…


Incidentally, according to Halpin4 there is a Kilkenny connection with two famous Dublin breweries as John Brennan, a brewer in partnership with a Cormick5 in Pennyfeather Lane, who moved to Dublin when their brewery closed down in 1841 and became manager in O’Connell’s Brewery. His son Charles later bought the business and it became the Phoenix Brewery.

It's worth mentioning here too that brewing has finally returned to Kilkenny with Costello's brewing their beers the city and a reincarnation of the above mentioned Sullivan's brewing specials on the pilot kit in their tap room.

So that's all for now, I have posted other Kilkenny brewing history on this blog in the past too so feel free to search for other posts on the subject.

Liam

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and can not be reproduced elsewhere without full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

References:

1 John Bradley, Irish Historic Towns Atlas, no. 10, Kilkenny. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2000 (www.ihta.ie), text, page 8.

2 Finn’s Leinster Journal – 17/11/1821

3 Lucas’ Commercial Directory

4 ‘The Brewing Industry in Kilkenny’, T. B. Halpin, Old Kilkenny Review 1989, pages 583-591

5 Shearman’s Commercial Directory

6 Kilkenny People – 2/10/1897

7 Kilkenny People – 9/11/1895

8 Finn’s Leinster Journal – 20/1/1827

9 Finn’s Leinster Journal – 7/7/1827

10 Kilkenny People – 27/9/1985


12 The Tuam Herald - 10/7/1897











Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Why Write? Why Not? Why Now?

The more observant/bothered among you will have noticed that I haven't posted much here over the past few months. One of the reasons - I try to convince myself - for this is a lack-of-time issue due to an increased 'real-life' workload, plus wanting to give more of the time I have to my family, and a need for a general refocus of energy in other directions.

Okay, so some of this redirection was brought about by the anger I channelled following my discovery that a local social media regurgitator had used my research and mywork here on his site without attribution, which in truth motivated me to give more time and attention to the more important things in my life and less to the 'frivolity' of  Blogging and Tweeting, with the result that these other areas of my life have improved immensely in the last few months - not that they were bad to start with of course.

So I guess every anger-laden cloud has a silver lining!?


Of course all of the above could just be an excuse for not writing here as I still write elsewhere, and with the help of a couple of good editors I have articles in a couple of nonbeer/food/travel related national magazines.

But that's different, that's work.


My writing here has always been more enjoyable and certainly less taxing, it was more of a pressure release, an escape. Just anonymous ramblings of interest to only a few, especially since I turned the direction of the blog towards the historical side of brewing. This was never going to be a big draw and hardly a hugely interesting topic for the majority of the public, let alone the beerphiliac minority. 

But that wasn't the point, as it was purely for me anyway, or perhaps anyone doing some beer, food or brewery related research who might find it helpful.

As I mentioned on Twitter a while back to someone who was complaining about the lack of readers to his online writing, we need to be aware that we are trying to communicate to a tiny circle of people, within another circle, within a not-so-big-to-start-with circle so we will never change the world or gain huge traction. Even though my own tiny circle intersects with a few other small, niche history/food/brewing groups, it would require a Venn Diagram maker to break out the tiny compass and pare their pencil to a super fine point to create anything meaningful or legible.

Our writings will never change the world and we will never be those butterfly's wings ... but that's not why we do this, we do it - mostly - for us.

That's why it annoys me when all Bloggers are lumped in with the parasitic influencers that now infest our social media, those extraverts who are in it solely for gain and profit, who harangue hotels for freebies or blackmail restaurants into giving them a favourable review.

But they are the small minority - and we are not them.

We are the majority, we are the introverts who stick our heads above the parapet on occasion with our Tweets or Blog posts, hoping we won't be picked off by those scoffers who know more than us or sabre-rattled-at by those who trawl timelines for something to be offended by, as this seems to be their sole, sad purpose on social media.

But, I'm not sure that all of this interests me or bothers me quite as much any longer...


So what next? Who knows or cares ... but for sure I have changed and I am evolving away from what I originally was here, and perhaps even from what I have become in the last while. I'm due more of a change, even if just for change sake.

In truth I could probably give more time to writing here if I really wanted to and perhaps the catalyst for creating more time is that change.

So ... a new name? A new avatar? A new direction? A hiatus? A cessation?

Perhaps, but I'm not sure and I'm open to suggestions...

Just don't motivate me with anger - even if it is an energy for me - I don't think I could handle much more work or family!

Take care,
Liam


Thursday, 22 November 2018

Beer History Kilkenny: James's Street Breweries - Sullivan's Selection...

(Tweet-to-Blog-Conversion-Project)


Back on the 6th February this year I posted this Tweet as a follow up to a post I did about Smithwicks...

'... not wishing to leave the reincarnation of @SullivansBrewCo out, here's an advert from 1895. A Sullivan's Pale Butt is probably out of the question but how about a rebrew of a Double Stout?'



Kilkenny People - 1895,

If nothing else it's nice to remind people yet again that the brewing history of Kilkenny doesn't just involve red ales, and worth posting permanently here for those researching the city's brewing history. I have more information on James's Street Breweries and a couple of its neighbours that I'll try and compile into an original and longer post soon...ish.

In the meantime here's another advert...

Waterford News and Star - 1870

Although I can't guarantee that Sullivan's solicit sample orders anymore ... but who knows?

Oh, and regarding the original Tweet, they did brew a single stout recently...

Liam



Part of my Tweet-to-Blog-Conversion-Project to give a slightly more permanent and expanded home to some of my previous Tweets.

With thanks again to my local library for their newspaper archive access.

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and can not be reproduced elsewhere without full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Friday, 16 November 2018

Beer History - Carlow: Incident at Casey's Brewery

Working in a brewery in the 19th century probably wasn't an easy task given the heat, physical work itself and the varied workload. Having said that, this incident from 1833 looks like it was driven by more than just work issues...

The Carlow Sentinel -1833
John Casey's brewery was situated where Dunleckney Maltings - or just 'The Maltings' as it is locally known - now stands, on the banks of the Barrow just outside of Bagenalstown in county Carlow. Indeed some of the existing structure is possibly part of the earlier brewery, which was there from the late 18th century. It changed hands a number of times before it was converted to solely a maltings and I will post more about it at a later date. It may even turn full circle given its current owners...

I'm not sure if Mr. Lynch ever recovered but it seems unlikely, nor do I know if Mr. Keating was ever found...

Not a nice way to go, so all of you current brewery workers with axes to grind might want to wander outside before you start any fights!

Thanks as ever to the local studies room in Carlow library.

Liam

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and can not be reproduced elsewhere without full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Beer History: Guinness Depot Carlow, c. 1900...

(Tweet-to-Blog-Conversion-Project)

Back in March 2017 I posted these tweets...


'Guinness depot on the Barrow in Carlow - late 1800s(?)
[via NLI Photo Collection - Cropped]'



'...Here's a better photo from the same source. If you look through the gate you can see the delivery system post-barge! More likely c. 1900.'


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The original images are from The Lawrence Photograph Collection on the NLI website are here and here, and you can see St.Anne's church on the Athy road (before it was moved to Graigue to become St. Clare's), and a malthouse and the gasworks chimney in the background. I think this is the building (under the C) via GioHive on the OSI's historic 25inch map.

It would be great to get a name for the gentleman inside that archway!

Edit: Thanks to Charlie Roche (@charleymcguffin on Twitter) here's a photo of the same building from 1948 via the Britain from Above website. I've added the arrow to make it clearer.




Part of my Tweet-to-Blog-Conversion-Project to give a slightly more permanent and expanded home to some of my previous Tweets.

(My original thread is here)

With thanks to OSI, GeoHive and NLI websites

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Beer History: Keily's Ale - St. Stephen's Brewery, Waterford

(Tweet-to-Blog-Conversion-Project)


Back in 2017 I posted a reply to an old photograph put up by Waterford History that showed a window of a pub in Waterford with a sign for Kiely's Pale Ale...


'Here's Keily's - 1865...'




(The Carlow Post - 1865)

My next Keily's post in that thread was this...

'...Here's another one from 1866...'


(The Carlow Post - 1866)
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As you can see from these advertisements, St. Stephen's brewed a wide range of ales ... East India Pale Ale, Strong & Mild Ales, Double (XX), Medium & Single Stouts (I'm assuming that these were porters and not just stout (strong) ales, which wouldn't make sense to my mind if categorised in this way?)

I've mentioned the brewery previously in a post about an exhibition in Cork in 1883, where they were then exhibiting an XXX Ale as well as their India Pale Ale (Brewed with malt from Perry's in Rathdowney, Laois.) and an XXX Stout...

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Last week I came across this nice write up about the brewery in the Munster Express from 1895, which originally came from the Irish Mineral Water Journal:


I'm unsure who the author of this passage was but they were seriously impressed by Keily's well hopped and flavoursome ale!

It's interesting to see how many of their comments echo similar points being made about our present beer revival, as to why we need to import so many foreign beers when we have such good ones here? I presume the answer is something to do with keeping breweries on their toes and giving a reference point as to how good is good? The same argument was, and is, given about food too, but surely without this foreign influx of different styles and products our own produce would be a lot less interesting and diverse, and our palates all the poorer too? (Having said all of that I do appreciate the sentiment of their tirade!)

And although I don't really know, I would think that when the time came for Keily's to finally stop brewing ,that foreign imports didn't play a huge part in that decision...


Part of my Tweet-to-Blog-Conversion-Project to give a slightly more permanent and expanded home to some of my previous Tweets.

(My original thread is here)

With thanks to my Local Library's Local Studies room.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Beer History: Pale Stouts ... from Cork and London

(Tweet-to-Blog-Conversion-Project)

"Hardly exciting or new but two nice mentions of Beamish & Crawford's Bavarian Pale and Brown Stouts from The Lancet in 1844, the only possible mystery is the Bavarian twist ... also of note is the mention of professor Liebig, previously mentioned here:"



_____

I Tweeted that here back in January 2018 and since then I've come across a couple more mentions of this Bavarian Pale Stout from 1843. Keeping in mind that the word 'Stout' just meant heavy or robust when attached to a beer then and had not become attached solely to a type of strong porter...



I also came across an advertisement for Thrale's Brewery from 1771 - which I posted about here - that mentioned a 'London Pale Stout of a bright Amber Colour, superior to any Pale Beer or Ale imported...'



Note: Other, wiser minds than mine have talked about Pale Stouts in more detail, let Google be your friend...

(Part of my Tweet-to-Blog-Conversion-Project)

(With thanks to my Local Library's Local Studies room and Google Books)