Well what do you expect from a small town with a Diageo run brewery sitting at its very heart? It's called a city for some reason. I ran through the various explanations I had heard for this designation; a cathedral, a castle, sufficient population, but in the end you can't help but come to the conclusion that it is a town, and a delightful one at that. It has a distinct medieval feel, mainly from the large amount of old rock and stones about the place. There are plenty of cobbled streets and ancient walls, as well as the castle, of course which sits on the river Nore and has no doubt seen a fair bit of action over the years, what with the bellicose nature of the natives.
Diageo's St Francis Abbey Brewery was closed last Saturday when I dropped into town with my wife to quietly celebrate my 30th birthday. I had nosey around the outside of the of the brewery, but nothing of interest was going on despite Diageo's claim that Budweiser is brewed 7 days a week on the premises to satisfy the seemingly unquenchable Irish thirst for this uninspiring beer.
Kilkenny is a town of pubs and churches (much like many Irish towns), but the quality of them is very high. The beer in the pubs sadly is not; the usual fare of Budwesier, Guinness, Smithwick's, Carlsberg and Heineken. I couldn't help but try some Kilkenny Irish Ale while there because it was one of the first beers I tried all those years ago. It was a go to beer for me around a decade ago when it was launched, but very few drank it and it was something of a gamble when ordering it in a Dublin pub. It tasted of far less than I recalled - unsurprising really because back then Kilkenny was damn near a speciality beer. Nowadays, to my more experienced palate, it tastes of damn all. The overriding flavour was nitrogen, I reckon. I also sampled some Smithwick's over the weekend, and came to the conclusion that it and Kilkenny Irish Ale are one in the same, save for the nitrogen adulterant.
The weekend wasn't a complete beer wash out, mind. Thanks to Laura I found The Wine Centre, a blissful oasis in this beer desert. When I walked in two guys behind the counter were discussing the merits of Fuller's ESB. My kind of place! It contains a very respectable selection of world beer, more than enough to keep the average beer geek content, and well worth visiting if you're in town. Laura alerted me to The Wine Centre after I had arrived in town, but fearing things would be a little barren on the beer front I brought a few bottles from home to stock the mini bar and aid my comfort while in the hotel. These included some Zeitgeist from Brewdog, and a bottle of Fuller's Summer Ale. I can't recommend the Summer Ale at all; it disappoints in so many ways, but Zeitgeist proved to be top notch, full of roasted malt and very clean. But it can't replace Brooklyn Lager, despite what some Irish Twitterers have suggested.