It looks like I could potentially be sued if I tried to actually sell my latest homebrew. In the movie Kalifornia, “Reeb” is what Early Grace (played by Brad Pitt) called beer. He said “they” (he and his friends, presumably) called it that so that authority figured wouldn’t be the wiser. Reeb, cleverly enough (or perhaps completely not clever) is beer spelled backwards.

There is now a commercial beer in China that has taken that name. I suppose I couldn’t be sued if the beer’s maker doesn’t have it trademarked here. I wonder if I should file for the trademark in case they haven’t already done so…

Anyhow, I racked my Reeb over a half-ounce of Amarillo hops last Friday morning. It tasted pretty decent, and Amarillo hops smell amazing, so I think it will turn out grand. I think I’ve finally perfected the label for this batch of brew, too:

Hump's Reeb - Rye Pale Ale

This evening I’ve been preparing a brew plan to last me most of the year. It involves numerous low-hop brews (due to the recent hop shortage). I’m thinking of buying extra hops while getting ingredients for those recipes. Doug, the owner of the homebrew store, will sell no more than three ounces of hops for each batch, but I have a few recipes that only call for one ounce. If I tack on a couple of extra ounces, then after three months I’ll have enough hops to brew up a double IPA. My recipe, Brain Bludgeoner, calls for an ounce each of Warrior, Columbus, Simcoe, and Centennial (all high-alpha American hop varieties) and two ounces of Glacier.

I’m praying for Doug (and a bit for me, too) that his store manages to flourish despite the hop crisis. With luck, he’ll find a new supplier or his current supplier will manage to acquire more hops – though I’m sure prices will double (or more) if and when that happens… But I don’t mind – hops are typically the least-cost ingredient in a batch of beer at current prices ($2.50 per ounce – about double the cost of hops when I first started brewing). Even if they go up to four bucks per ounce, it would still only be $24 for all of the hops in my big ol’ double IPA. The malt extract for that same batch runs over $30, or a little over $20 for all grain. Since I do a mix (5 or so pounds of grain and then the rest extract), I’d be looking at right at $30 for the fermentables. Considering that the vast majority of flavor and character in that type of beer is from the hops, it doesn’t seem outrageous for that ingredient to cost so close to half of the bill…

My plan for this year has me “saving up” for hops every few months so that I can brew a Double IPA this year as well as both a classic English IPA and a nice American IPA. The American IPA is an adaptation/reformulation of my Hellishly Hopped Ale, which was a fantastic beer that found itself squarely between two styles: American Pale Ale and American IPA.

I tried to look online for hops and found a very similar situation. Even some of the really big online stores are all out of plugs and leaf hops and are limiting quantities of pellet hop purchases. And they are changing anywhere from three to eight dollars per ounce!

I’ve read a bit about hops recovering by 2010. I’m hoping it happens sooner than that, but it may not. It typically takes a couple of years for new land to yield good crops. So the upswing in production that began in 2007 as a reaction to the shortage won’t really be fruitful until the 2009 harvest. This year’s harvest is likely to be much better than last year’s, but harvest isn’t until fall. So 2008 hops won’t likely roll into homebrew shops until 2009. It relieves me somewhat to see that the Boston Beer Company (makers of Samuel Adams) seem to be counting on better fortunes next year. One of the three beers that won their recent Long Shot homebrew competition was a Double IPA (if you follow the link, select the year 2007). They postponed its appearance to 2009 due to the shortage. So the six-pack this year has only two brews: a Weizenbock (pretty good) and a Grape Pale Ale (notably less good). When they get to the Double IPA next year, it will reportedly be the largest single batch of Double IPA ever brewed. I don’t have a link to the source of that report, but I heard it when listening to the archives for The Jamil Show. They’ve had the Double IPA winner, Mike McDole, on their show a few times and talked about the competition and his recipe in several episodes. They also had the Weizenbock winner, Rodney Kibzey, on the show this past December.

Speaking of weizens, my next batch will be a Dunkles Hefeweissbier (Dunkelweizen for short). It will only need one ounce of hops. I’m basing the recipe loosely on the base beer for the Berry Weizen I made in 2007, except that I’m experimenting with some new grains: Dark Wheat Malt (which doesn’t actually impart a very dark color) and Chocolate Wheat Malt. I think the Chocolate Wheat Malt would be even more appropriate as part of the grist for a Weizenbock, but I plan on using a little in the Dunkelweizen I’ll be making.