Friday, May 19, 2023

Wicklow Wolf ranges far and wide. All 32 counties and exports to Italy, France and the Nordic countries.

Wicklow Wolf ranges far and wide. 

All of Ireland and exports to Italy, France and Nordic countries.

The honey trap! Latest in Locavore series from Wicklow Wolf

The Wicklow Wolf craft brewery brewery was co-founded by Quincey Fennelly and Simon Lynch in 2014. The location then was in Bray. Now, in the new facility, near NewtownmountKennedy, there is a team of five brewers working under two ex Brewdog employees, John the production manager, and head brewer Andrew. The total number employed is 27.

Quincey told me on my recent visit to the Den they realised early on that they needed professional help and it was Pete, a brewer from Colorado, who got them really up and running.

Not just a sunny day player. Simon restringing hops at the brewery

Not a bad result, to date, for what Quincey,  the CEO, thought would be something of a hobby. But Wicklow Wolf did it so well that their beers can now be found in all 32 counties in the island. Exports go to Italy, France and the Nordic countries, so far! Elevation Ale is their “flagship beer”, followed by Mammoth and Tundra.

They have been brewing here in the purpose built 17,000 sq ft brewery since late 2019. “It is home to our Braukon Brewhouse, in-house packaging lines, hop garden and our Taproom."

The cool part of the taproom

What efforts do you make to be environmentally friendly and sustainable?

Quincey says the solar panels on the roof have been a great investment. “In summer, we take nothing from the grid.” And their electricity charges overall are down by 35%.  I think Quincy and Simon have every reason to be very happy with progress so far!

We met Simon as he tended to the hops at the brewery as the rain lashed down. Not too much to see right now (mid May) but the plants are heading in the right direction and soon “there’ll be a wall of green there.”

Quincey (r) and Yours Truly in The Den

And not just in this little patch. They grow most of their hops on a couple of acres offsite. Simon (on Facebook) declared: “We want to showcase products from farm-field to glass and as a horticulturist we have the in-house skills to be able to add something special to tell a different story.”

“We’ve plans to grow more of our own ingredients in the near future in addition to our own hops, to be as sustainable as possible and do things in a way that has little impact on the environment.”

The rain was heavy that day but being out in the open has compensations for Simon: “Being out in nature in the Wicklow hills! People who work Monday to Friday only get the opportunity to go walking, orienteering and cycling in the Wicklow hills at the weekends whereas my work is there which is great. Although not so wonderful on the days when the weather turns nasty, but when you love what you do it’s not always as difficult.”

Energy costs reduced substantially thanks to these panels.

Simon was restringing the hops at the brewery when we called but all the others had to be done too.The hops will take some time to flourish over the summer, before being harvested in late September, hand picked and added to Locavore Winter 2023, giving a floral, earthy character to the beer, a true reflection of the Wicklow terroir.

How is your brewery connected to the local area?

Well, there’s the hops for one thing. They use local ingredients whenever they can. I always look forward to the latest in the Locavore series and indeed had their Spring 2022, a Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale, as my Beer of the Year last year. Just enjoyed the 2023 version and it is another good one. It a Honey Hefeweizen.

Local, as you know, is always at the heart of the series, and this is brewed with locally sourced Wicklow heather honey from the hives of “our friends in OpenHive” and using wheat grown in the field behind the brewery. The classic flavours of the style are enhanced by the taste and aroma of the fantastic Wicklow heather honey that adds a floral sweetness to the beer and, of course, a taste of Wicklow. Get your hands on it if you can and then watch out for the summer edition and see what they decide to put in that!

In the wild, a pint of Elevation ale in Lynam's Bar in Laragh.

Look out also for their new collaboration with Lost and Grounded Brewers. This India Pale Lager, called Running with Wolves, is dry hopped with Idaho 7 and Huell Melon "to create a savagely refreshing modern style lager”. It is pretty damn good as I realised while sipping a sample at the Den.

Their impressive tap room brings in visitors to the area. As do the brewery tours. Scheduled tours are held every Saturday afternoon in Newtownmountkennedy. “Take a guided tour of our brewery, followed by a guided tasting of some of our beers right in the heart of the brewery.” More info here .

A new favourite (theirs and mine), India Pale Lager

And they also have founded a social running club that will focus on getting “our members out running on some of the fantastic trails that Wicklow has to offer and of course finishing with a well earned beer. Every run will be organised with a running coach who will be on hand to offer any advice and support to our members.” More on that here

All in all, they put a lot into the local area but Quincey is quick to point out that “in return, we get great local support.” And I could see that in the first pub I visited in Laragh where two of the taps had their Elevation Pale Ale and Tundra Tropical IPA available. “I’ll have one of each please!”



Core beers?

The Elevation and Tundra are two of their core beers, also known collectively as the Alpha Pack. Others included are Mammoth IPA, Apex Oatmeal Stout, Wildfire Hoppy Red Ale, Arcadia Gluten Free Lager, Eden Session IPA, Avalanche Juicy Pale Ale, Raindrop Mixed Berry Sour, and Moonlight Non Alcoholic Hoppy Ale.

How do you choose which styles of beer to brew?

Quincey :“It is a collective decision… We don’t always go for the obvious crowd pleasers, we offer a wider selection, that Honey Hefe  for instance and the hop lager you are drinking. We offer quite a variety and don’t always get credit for that.”


When did you switch to cans?

“We did start with bottles and still use them in some situations. We decided to make the overall switch to cans when we moved here in late 2019”. I told Quincy that I had enjoyed a can of sake in a Cork Michelin starred restaurant recently and wondered why Irish restaurants rarely offer beer in cans. He reckons many Irish restaurants are a little behind the curve in their hesitancy. “Lots of fashionable restaurant in London do cans,” he said.

Water. Hard or soft?

It is soft here and suits most of our beers”.

Finally. What’s your typical day like?

“Full of variety.” Lots of meetings of course. And then he was off to have a chat with a visiting brewer from Bulgaria! Never a dull moment in the Wolf’s Den.

Links to my previous posts on Irish breweries

Mescan Westport

An Irish Meaderie

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