Wicklow Wolf in part derives its name from the hop plant whose botanical name is Humulus Lupulus, Lupulus meaning small wolf.
The Wicklow Wolf Hop Farm is located on the glacial slopes of Djouce Mountain in the Wicklow hills. Here the hops grow at an altitude of 1000ft. At the hop farm we currently grow eight varieties of of hops, primarily Cascade, Chinook, Challenger, Perle, Bramling cross, fuggles and a small number of Nugget and Prima Donna.
In 2021 we also established the Hop Gardens at the brewery as part of our visitor experience to the Wicklow Wolf Taproom. We are currently growing three varieties of hops at the brewery: Northdown, Northern Brewer and Phoenix.
Hops are climbing plants known as bines. They are in a category of plants called herbaceous perennial which means they start growing in the spring and will continue through the summer season. In the wintertime their foliage will die back and once spring approaches in the new year they will form their root system known as a rhizome.
The first new shoots will appear in April, and look quite similar to asparagus spears in appearance. Hops as a species are extremely vigorous and can grow over eight metres in a single season.
Hops are grown on a support or trellis which allows for the hops to be more easily tended and harvested. At Wicklow Wolf our trellis system consists of eight metre telegraph poles with a top wire running between the roles. The new hop shoots twine around coconut fibre which is a natural and biodegradable twine. This twine is pegged to the ground beside the hop rhizomes and is tied to the tip wire.
The strongest shoots are selected and encouraged to grow up the lengths of twine in a v shape. The hops are shown the twin by wrapping them clockwise around it. Once they are wrapped around the twine they will continue to grow up it themselves.
Due to the vigorous nature of the hops, they are very hungry and need to be manured, mulched and fed with an organic based feed a number of times during the growing season.
It can take up to three years for the hop plants to reach full maturity. The growth of the hops can be divided into two distinct cycles within the growing season. From early Spring to around the Summer Solstice, the bines grow rapidly and produce vegetative growth. From mid Summer onwards, they will develop side shoots on which small fluffy structures will begin to appear in August. These small fluffy structures are known as “burrs” and this is the structure from which the hop cone will develop.
Harvest time usually is the first week in October. This is determined by examining the cones, checking to see that the cone has dried slightly, feeling and listening for a papery sensation.
Most importantly, checks are carried out to find the essential oils or resin known as lupulin which is what adds the delicious flavour to our beer and helps to preserve its quality for longer.
Find out more about The Locavore Project and our Sustainability at the links below: