What’s an oast? It’s a hops-dryer. A very-low-temp kiln. It’s a box, sometimes with heat, that transfers air through harvested hops cones and gently, quickly dries them in such a way that preserves the acids and oils needed to transform hops into brewers’ vegetative ninjas. It just so happens that my to-do list for winter 2014 includes:
Secure a tiller with more integrity and efficiency than a 1974 Monty Ward model (orange);
Secure a tractor that freakin’ starts when you turn the stupid key;
Build an OAST
Build a hops picker for WAAAAY less than the $4000 they’re being sold for locally
Create a decent packaging system (including nitrogen-flushing functionality??)
So per #3 above, I’ve built an oast, inspired by the University of Vermont Extension Service. And perhaps IKEA.
History provides three basic models to guide the nascent oast builder:
Barn-style oast. Used in the middle ages to apparently process large quantities of hops with large quantities of labor. (How did these people make a living?) It’s basically a barn-sized chimney. I actually know a great place to (re)build a barn, but don’t think I have the time or hand-quarried stone or technical common sense to pull one of those off.
Space-consuming monstrosity style: Used to process about one acre of hops in an over-engineered-by-smarty-pants-engineers pursuit. This design is designed to make you give up. It’s a pain in the ...ear... that takes up ridiculous quantities of real estate and ultimately supports the boxed wine industry.
Wooden box with an attached fan. Ding diiiing! (2 months ago: "Heck, I can make one of those with some scrap wood from demo and a handful of deck screws! Shoot, that’ll just take me a couple hours!")
And here it is, transforming IKEA-style from oast to garage-grade work bench: