An Oast is what you dry hops in. Hops need to be dried when they are picked, otherwise they will probably go mouldy. The traditional English Oast house, to be seen dotted around Kent as refurbished cottages has a round tower, or sometimes several in sequence as above, with a steep conical roof, and on the top is a swiveling funnel vent. This vent turns like a weather vane, so that the wind always blows over it, thus creating a draft and sucking air out of the chimney. There is a
furnace at the bottom which heats the floor that the hops are spread out on, and the draft from the chimney sucks the moist air away. They were then packaged in to bales.
Last year I simply dried the hops in the oven on the lowest setting, around 40c. However I felt this was maybe a little warm, and I had read that if you dry your hops
slower and at a cooler temperature you will retain more flavour, so a new drying option was required, a dedicated Oast.
Now I don’t have a circular feature on the house, however I do need to dry my hops. I’ve seen some nice designs such as the one that turns a simple chest of drawers in to a drying cupboard, but the problem is my oast needs to be pretty much disposable, because I have nowhere to store it for the rest of the year. I happened upon the following excellent design which uses a simple screen frame to sit the hops on, with
a cardboard box above fitted with a fan to extract the air. I built the frame in five minutes by knocking together a couple of bits of scrap wood. Over it I stretched the cheapest net curtain material I could find, in this case 1.50 from Guiney’s, the epicentre of Dublin’s northside (though I would also accept the Northside Shopping Centre for this accolade). I took a piece of cardboard that was originally some Ikea packaging, and created the cover. I cut out a small circle, and wired up a 12 volt computer fan to a 12 volt adaptor I had, and I used a couple of nails just pushed through to secure it. All of this is throwaway, and I’ll build a new one next year.
As we speak, figuratively speaking, the hops are drying, the fan is humming. I turn them around in the morning and in the evening. It should probably take another day or so.