If you have a green thumb, want the freshest hops, and want to know where the hops came from, the best thing you can do is grow your own. Having your own hopyard adds another element of control within your brewing process and adds even more personality and uniqueness to your homebrewed concoctions.
Unless you plan to use all of your harvested hops in a wet hop beer, then after harvest you need to dry the hops before packaging and freezing them. The best way to dry your freshly picked hops in order to preserve all of those wonderful flavor-boosting oils, acids, and compounds is with a hop oast.
My drying method when I first began growing hops was removing and laying my screen door flat on sawhorses, dumping the whole batch on it, and letting them sit in the warm garage with a box fan blowing over the top of the hops. I was limited by the use of the screen door, and often had more hops than screen, which led me to search for and borrow other screens from around the house. In 2014, August temperatures were pleasant and the family was enjoying cross ventilation through the house with the windows open. Of course, this required screens in the windows and limited my drying capacity. I used this as my reasoning to build yet another piece of brewing equipment
When designing the oast, I wanted to limit the amount of heat that was applied to dry the hops since certain oils begin to evaporate at higher temperatures, changing the flavors that are imparted in the beer. The intent was to keep as many of the oils as possible in- tact to maximize the flavors in my beers. I needed a lot of drying space as I was anticipating several pounds of dried hops at harvest time. I also did not want this to take up a lot of real estate, as it was going to be a part of my limited garage brewing space. I drew inspiration from a box design that fit all of my needs on Instructables.com, which was adapted from The Homebrewer’s Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use Your Own Hops, Malts, Brewing Herbs by Dennis and Joe Fisher.
This project took roughly four hours to complete. However, the benefit of this build allows me to get nearly 20 pounds of wet hops to their dry storage weight in little time without using heat to potentially drive off those wonderful aroma and flavor compounds that make hops the earmark of certain brewing styles.
Materials and Tools
1⁄2-inch sanded plywood panel cut in half width-wise
2×6 board (8 feet/2.4 m long)
4-foot (1.2 m) wide aluminum re-inforced screen (25 ft/7.5 m long)
3-inch wood screws
(2) 1-ft x 1-ft furring strips (8 inches/20 cm long)
Brad nailer and 11⁄4-inch brad nails
Staple gun and staples
Box fan (square 20-inch/51-cm)