HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — There’s only 250 gallons of it brewed. And when this batch of Frankenhammer is gone, it’s gone until next October, which is exactly how Yellowhammer Brewing head brewer Keith Yager prefers it.
“I intentionally try to keep it rare,” Yager says. “There are some kegs and stuff as well, but there’s actually only 37 cases (each containing a dozen, 22-ounce bottles) that we shipped out.”
Yager ages Frankenhammer, a Belgian ale, with toasted and charred cherry wood for six weeks. The end result is a spicy, dry, 9.2 percent alcohol-by-volume brew that takes on a red hue, cherry notes and mellow background earthiness from the wood.
“I’ve always been interested in different types of woods,” Yager says. He’s seated at a table inside Yellowhammer’s Clinton Avenue brewery, finishing a plate of General Tso’s Chicken, occasionally gesturing with his chopsticks when making a point. Sacks of imported German malt are behind him. “I had just been experimenting with cherry wood and I kind of liked the flavor it gives. I used to brew a barleywine – this is not the same recipe –and called it Frankenhammer, and we borrowed that name.”
Yellowhammer debuted Frankenhammer on Halloween 2011, and this year’s version shipped out Oct. 7, hopefully to be in craft-beer-oriented stores, such as Liquor Express and Star Market, and watering-holes, like The Nook, by Friday.
Yager moved to Huntsville from Pennsylvania. He began making beer in 1995, when his mom gave him one of those home-brewing kits for Christmas. Many of his older beer recipes were handwritten on paper, but these days he designs new beers on his laptop.
Asked about other once-a-year beers he’s into, Yager sites styles from Michigan’s Founders Brewing and Bell’s Brewery.
Besides that limited-edition buzz, another reason for Frankenhammer’s yearly status is simple logistics, Yager says. “Because it ages for six weeks it ties up one of my tanks. I only put it in one tank – I can’t put it in my 30-barrel tank because I need to keep turning that over. Next year, hopefully we’ll get another 30-barrel tank, and I’ll be able to do a larger batch of it and have a little bigger release. But until we do that, it’s going to be a small limited release.”