The purpose of an oast is to dry hops. This is achieved by the use of a flow of heated air through the kiln, rather than a firing process (compare drying your hands under a hand drier against baking them in an oven).
The process for the traditional oast:
Hops were picked in the hop gardens by gangs of pickers, who worked on a piece work basis and earned a fixed rate per bushel. The green hops were put into large hessian sacks called pokes. These would be taken to the oast and brought into the stowage at first floor level. Some oasts had a man-powered hoist for this purpose, consisting of a pulley of some 5 feet (1.52 m) diameter on an axle to which a rope or chain was attached.
The green hops when freshly picked had a moisture content of some 80%, this needed to be reduced to 6%, although the moisture content would subsequently rise to 10% during storage.
The green hops were spread out in the kilns. The floors were generally of 11⁄4 in (32 mm) square battens nailed at right angles across the joists, placed so that there was a similar gap between each batten, and covered with a horsehair cloth. The hops would be spread some 12 inches (300 mm) deep, the kiln doors closed and the furnace lit. When the hops were judged to be dried, the furnace would be extinguished and the hops removed from the kiln using a scuppet, which was a large wooden framed shovel with a hessian base. The hops would be spread out on the stowage floor to cool, and would then be pressed into large jute sacks called pockets with a hop press. Each pocket contained the produce of about 150 imperial bushels (5,500 l) of green hops. It weighed a hundredweight and a quarter (140 pounds (64 kg)) and was marked with the growers details, this being required under The Hop (Prevention of Fraud) Act, 1866.
The pockets were then sent to market, where the brewers would buy them and use the dried hops in the beer making process to add flavour and act as a preservative.
Oasts sometimes caught fire, the damage sometimes being confined to the kilns (Castle Farm, Hadlow), or sometimes leading to the complete destruction of the oast (Stilstead Farm, East Peckham in September 1983 and Parsonage Farm, Bekesbourne in August 1996).
Read more about this topic: Oast House
Famous quotes containing the words hop and/or drying:
“I have tried being surreal, but my frogs hop right back into their realistic ponds.”
—Mason Cooley (b. 1927)
“Just as petals fall from drying garlands, which you can see aimlessly swimming in wine-bowls are we lovers, who now puff up our chests, but perhaps tomorrow the fateful day will shut us down.”
—Propertius Sextus (c. 5016 B.C.)