In her latest post Anna Filina has made some recommendations of countermeasures you can use to help prevent abuse against brute force attacks in your applications. The recommendations aren't PHP-specific, but they're a good guide and a place to start.
Password brute-forcing refers to trying all password permutations until the attacker finds the right one. Here are some of the most common ways to mitigate that risk: increase the length of the password and increase the number of possible characters. [...] The human factor should not be ignored here. People often use letters in the beginning and numbers at the end.
She recommends a few other tactics to helping prevent the brute forcing including locking an account after a number of unsuccessful login attempts and requiring a CAPTCHA after a number of unsuccessful logins. She recommends not relying on a single method to help prevent this kind of attack, however. Multiple layers can only help, but be careful not to introduce too much complexity.