Wicklow Wolf in part derives its name from the hop plant whose botanical name is Humulus Lupulus, Lupulus meaning 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 five varieties of hops, primarily Cascade, Perle, Bramling Cross, Chinook and Challenger.

Wicklow Wolf Hop Farm
The Wicklow Wolf Hop Farm

The Hop Gardens

In 2021 we 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.

Wicklow Wolf Hop Garden
The Wicklow Wolf Hop Garden at the Brewery

what are hops?

Hops are climbing plants known as bines. Hops are in a category of plants called herbaceous perennials meaning they grow in the spring and continue throughout Summer. In the wintertime the foliage dies 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.

Hop Bines beginning to grow up the coconut twine
A closer look at the young hop bines first growth
The beginning of the burrs growth

Hops are grown on a support or trellis which makes their care and harvesting easier. 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 twine by wrapping them clockwise around it. Once they are wrapped around the twine they will continue to grow up it themselves.

Wicklow Wolf Locavore Project
Progress of the hops growing on the hop farm in late June

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.

How do hops grow?

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.

Simon tending to the hops
Simon tending to the hops at the Hop Garden
Burrs beginning to show on the hop bines

hop harvest

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.

Last year’s hop farm harvest took place on September 28th 2023. Simon and the team arrived at the hop farm bright and early to get the harvest underway. Once the bines were pulled down and transported back to the brewery, we had some incredible volunteers join us to help hand pick the fresh hops. Over the course of the morning over 60kg of hops were and picked, ready to be added straight into the brewhouse, where the hops would impart the taste of the Wicklow Hills into Locavore Winter 2023.

We were delighted to be joined by some volunteers who helped us pick hops and spend the day with us brewing the beer, in what was a fun and educational day with plenty of beer, pizza and coffee to go around. 

Read all about Locavore Winter 2023 here.

Find out more about The Locavore Project and our Sustainability at the links below:

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