Smithwick's: The new Irish option
Smithwick’s Irish Ale is the new import from Ireland. Not new itself, since it’s been brewed since 1710, but new to the United States. The diabolically powerful beer importers have deemed that to be our Irish beer du jour, at the apparent expense of Beamish, Caffrey’s, etc. which are no longer available here. Canadians have had the privilege for years, and it has been one of their most popular imports. For whatever reason, it has been selected to replace a couple of those brews you may have been used to seeing, and will now become one of the most prominent Irish beers available -- at least for now. Is this a change we should welcome, or just grin and bear?
Well, I certainly don’t mind bearing several pints of Smithwick’s. It’s made by Guinness, how could it possibly be bad? Everyone’s going to have their personal favorites, and a few of the beers we are losing in this move certainly had their strong points. It’s a shame we can’t have it all in this land of choice and plenty; but, keep the chin up, it could have been worse.
As far as appearances go, Smithwick’s doesn’t get much better. The pint pours beautifully. A thick, creamy, everlasting head. The beer is coppery with a tinge of brown, looking like a foamy iced tea. If anyone wants to know what the perfect Irish ale is supposed to look like, look no further. Which is fine if all you want to do is look at one.
Unfortunately, the taste doesn’t quite measure up to its appearance. But how could it? The aroma is very mild. Maybe a little grassy, but only the merest hint. The flavor is balanced, and both the bitter hops and sweet malt hit you at the same time. The malt stands out a bit more, giving it the essence of a proper Guinness stout, almost like it was brewed in the old Guinness barrels. It carries more of a tree taste, actually, than that grassy whiff promised, with a nip of bitterness at the back. It’s smooth, but a little thin. Medium bodied at best, so it‘s not going to be overly filling. Nothing at all really disagreeable with this beer, but nothing sets it much apart from many other ales.
Just a good ’knees-up at the pub’ type beer. The alcohol is only 4.5%, so it makes it ideal to pound. The staple Irish foods and the like would go well with this, which is fortunate since most of those Irish themed places springing up all over the place are going to be offering this to go with that ‘authentic‘ meal you‘ll be having. Shepherd’s pie, stew, corned beef, a whisky -- all perfect accompaniments. As with any ale, drink it at cellar temperature -- 45 degrees or so. It’s not meant to be near frozen. The mild flavor will diminish even further if it’s too cold.
Leave it to the Irish to make a good, honest, drinking man’s beer, and above all, that’s what Smithwick’s is. If a gut full of Guinness is too much for you, this is a few notches below. It’s not as heavy or as flavorful. It also isn’t that scary black color which tends to intimidate some. But that doesn’t mean this is some hoity-toity beverage the snobs are going to go for either. It’s not cute, complicated, nor complex. Being made by a macro brew like Guinness is enough for most of them to turn their noses up. But line them up and keep them coming. Smithwick’s is an easy drinking Irish ale for the brogue attempting mobs that like to have several in a sitting, but want something a bit more than the usual domestic swill. Just stop one pint before the urge to belt out ’Danny Boy’ and a good time is guaranteed for all. But don’t become too attached. Who knows when the powers that be will decide to yank it away again?