The test batch with the new smoker worked out well. In a couple of weeks, the first beer to hit the shelves (and possibly a bar or two) will be the Hellsmoke Porter.
Stay tuned for more on when and where to be on the lookout for the following label...
There’s good news emanating from the hop fields of the Czech Republic: according to the country’s Hop Growers Union, after two years of disastrous yields, the hop harvest will be around the long term average. Total production will be around 6,500 tonnes, with the Saaz variety accounting for the majority of the harvest at 5,300 tonnes. That’s almost a 1,000 tonne improvement over the 2007 total of 5,631 tonnes. Acreage for all varieties has held constant, at 5,335 hectares in 2008 compared to 5,389ha in ’07. There has been some redistribution between varieties, with additional land for Sladek and Premiant verities at the expense of Saaz. That said, Saaz remains the Czech hop of choice, accounting for an estimated 4,738ha this year. Not all the news is positive, at least from the perspective of Czech growers. Gains in contract prices, notes the Hop Growers Union, have been offset by increases in the cost of fuel, fertilisers, electricity and other essentials. There are also exchange rate woes - more than 80% of the hop crop is exported, a problem given the Czech currency’s recent appreciation against the euro.
Between the higher costs for transport and the poor shape of the U.S. dollar, I don't expect hops to be cheap, but at least more will be available. Some hops can't be had for love or money.
I'll share any domestic hop news as I find it.