Kilkenny brewery set to be distilled into €3m visitor centre

One of Ireland’s oldest breweries is to be transformed into a €3m visitor centre which is set to open its doors in less than a year.

Smithwick’s made the announcement yesterday for its St Francis Abbey Brewery in Kilkenny. The project will see 40 jobs created during the construction period and 12 when the centre opens.

According to Smithwick’s, the existing visitor centre at the Victorian brewery building will be turned into a “visitor experience” that will reflect the history of 300 years of brewing in Kilkenny.

Fáilte Ireland head of operations Gary Breen said the plan will complement the investment being made by Fáilte Ireland and the local authority in Kilkenny to promote tourism.

“As an exciting and hands-on attraction, [this] has the potential of becoming a major magnet for increased tourist numbers to the south east,” Mr Breen said.

The Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny will be a “sensory, tactile visitor experience that immerses you in Ireland’s oldest beer brand; the history, the brewing craft, the future, and, ultimately, tasting the pint,” the company said yesterday.

“Visitors will be able to experience the medieval origins of brewing on the site to the arrival of the amazing John Smithwick. They will discover the Kilkenny-Smithwick’s connections through the years with interactive installations bringing the story right up to date.”

The company hopes the Smithwick’s Experience will draw thousands of visitors each year following its projected opening in spring of next year.

Speaking at the announcement of the project, Phil Hogan, the environment minister and a local TD, said the Smithwick’s brewery has been “a central part of Kilkenny” for over 300 years.

“It is tremendous that Diageo has agreed to acknowledge this great history and tradition by establishing this visitor centre,” he said.

Separately Diageo sold much of the brewery site to the city council last year and various urban development designs are being studied before the future of the city-centre parcel of land is decided.

Mayor of Kilkenny Seán Ó hArgáin said he hoped the Smithwick’s visitor centre will become one of the country’s leading attractions.

“It will also become a key component of our plans to develop the ‘Medieval Mile’ from Kilkenny Castle to St Canice’s Cathedral and will also, we hope, celebrate all that the workers of Kilkenny have contributed to our development.”

Diageo country manager David Smith said the €3m investment “underpins” the company’s commitment to Ireland.

“This is a very significant announcement for the company and represents Diageo Ireland’s largest capital expenditure announcement since the €153m expansion and redevelopment of the St James’s Gate Brewery,” Mr Smith said.

The existing brewery in Kilkenny is to close at the end of this year, with all production due to take place in Dublin at the company’s new brewing centre of excellence at St James’s Gate. Source: Irish Examiner