An arcane and mysterious sect, brewers like to perform a number of rituals during the making of beer: the pre-mash dance and battle cry, the sacramental blessing of the hops, the ceremonial loogie into the day's first boil. (ED NOTE: These are all made up. We hope.) But perhaps no brewday custom is as ubiquitous or as beloved as the Hot Scotchy.
Maybe it's because brewers alone hold the key to its creation. A Scotchy is made by combining just two ingredients: scotch, which is available in delicious variety to all, and wort, the sweet syrup made by boiling malt to extract its sugars that is the building block to any beer. Considering the many types of scotch and the thousands of grain bill possibilities when making beer, this combination of ingredients makes the cocktail both simple and wildly complex.
Rob Fullmer, president of the Arizona Society of Homebrewers, was introduced to the Hot Scotchy a few years ago by Jim Strelau, brewmaster at Oak Creek Brewing Co. While boiling the wort for a batch of Elderflower Pear Bier De Garde, Strelau suddenly excused himself, returning with a couple half-full glasses of scotch (ED NOTE: A glass of scotch is ALWAYS half full.) Fashioning a ladle out of a cup and string, Strelau pulled a few draws of the mash and mixed up the perfect elixir.
"It works so well because when you distill liquors, you make mash," Fullmer says. "It combines all the best qualities of the mash in both scotch and beer."
But from whence had this concoction come? According to Fullmer, Strelau had learned about the drink from another brewer in Ohio, who had been taught by someone else. It's likely the Scotchy was first crafted in England and was passed across the pond as American brewers began to emulate British brewing traditions. Four Peaks head brewer Andy Ingram -- who says he makes a Scotchy for every new beer he makes -- was introduced to the drink by Barry John, who was once a brewer for Young's Brewery in London.
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Regardless of origins, the drink's popularity today is growing. On Monday, the Arizona Society of Homebrewers hosted events at Moto and The Hungry Monk, where the drinks went quickly -- Hungry Monk went through nine gallons in two hours.
The Hot Scotchy, however, is not a cost-effective drink. The amount of wort above could be used to make 40 or 50 gallons of beer. This may be another reason it's so popular among homebrewers especially -- people willing to spend hundreds of dollars on higher quality hops and grain are predisposed to spending more in exchange for flavor.
"I do it with any batch of anyone that visits me, and maybe half of the batches I make by myself," Fullmer says. "For future events, we're looking into making the wort on-premise in a restaurant. We want people can see the process, and the time between making and serving will be shorter. It's never as good as hot off the burner."