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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Greatest Beverage in the World: Hot Scotchy (Hot Scotchie)

Those who know me know I am not given to exaggeration. I am a man of vast and unyielding moderation. Therefore, you should pay close attention when I say that there's this old-timey concoction called a Hot Scotchie (or, variously Hot Scotchy or Hot Fat Bastard) which is, objectively, the finest beverage known to man.*

We should probably step back a moment and acknowledge James Horlick before we get too far afield. Horlick, an Englishman, invented a product originally aimed at infants called "malted milk." Eventually, the powdered version of the product became popular among adults, leading to malted milkshakes, malted milk balls, and other malt-based foods. The heyday of malt lasted for the first half of the 20th century, though Horlicks is still quite popular throughout Asia.

I'm not sure why the phenomenon died out, because malt is uniquely comforting. Essentially, it's just dried malt powder, not unlike that which extract brewers brew with: malted grain, mashed and dried. Obviously, it's unhopped and pre-alcoholic. The quality is grainy, like breakfast cereal, sweet and wholesome. It tastes like something your mother would give you to keep you warm and ward off colds--which, in fact, was pretty much what it became.

Now we come to Hot Scotchie, a drink with a history lost to the mists of time. Or at least lost to Google. The concept is much the same. Brewers would draw off a small amount of the mash as it issued from the grain bed, fresh and warm. To this they added a dollop of Scotch. What happens is nothing short of mystical. Mash runnings are very sweet and flabby--there's no definition to the flavors. The addition of Scotch somehow reverses all this. Like an electric current, the Scotch animates the grains so that you can taste them in HD. The Scotch is likewise a very clear note, but not sharp or aggressive. It has all the flavor of a straight shot, but it's floating amid Mom's comforting malted. Insanely beguiling.

The version I had was made with mash from Upright Seven and Talisker. As an added touch, Jacob Grier added a tiny skiff of whipped cream, but this is definitely optional (though also nice). All reports suggest that it doesn't matter what mash runnings you're working with--Hot Scotchie rocks whether the beer in question is a mild or barleywine. In fact, you become more attuned to the variations in batches that way, so say the experienced. However, reports differ about which Scotches to use. Homebrew maven Ray Daniels swears by cheap Scotch, but Grier says only good, single malt, and only something with character--preferably peat. He plans on Ardbeg, an Islay, for the weekend. I'll experiment and get back to you.

Hot Scotchies are, for the moment anyway, mainly the province of homebrewers. Perhaps the odd pro sneaks a pint of wort from an afternoon brew, but I doubt it. The trouble is, unhopped wort isn't an ingredient to which bartenders have ready access. Therefore, in the near term at least, Hot Scotchies are not likely to become commonplace. Fortunately, the US has 1600+ breweries, so perhaps some of them will work with bars, at least on a limited basis, to bring the Hot Scotchie to an unsuspecting public. Consider this my plea.

Portlanders have a great opportunity this weekend to try a Hot Scotchie at the Hop and Vine, and I encourage them to avail themselves of it. Others should either take up homebrewing or try to arrange for Hot Scotchie tastings in your town. No one should live a life without having had one.

*Most of this is expansive exaggeration. I am a serial hyperbolizer, and I wouldn't recommend ordering a Hot Fat Bastard unless you know the bartender. But Hot Scotchie: yes, the finest beverage known to man. Objectively.


  1. I was unaware of this beverage for most of my decade and a half homebrewing career. My first Scotchy was 2 years ago compliments of Jim Strelau of Oak Creek Brewing inaugurating my first batch on a 7BBL rig.

    It's been staple in my brewing ever since. I wrote about it in passing here: Beer PHXation: The Blend Trend but this will need to be revisited as the weather changes here. Yes. It does get cold in Phoenix... Or at least more favorable than drinking hot wort on a 110 degree day.

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  3. Does the proportion of wort to scotch matter? I'm planning on trying one on my next brew day.

  4. Are you bringing the Islay malt next week?

  5. To give credit where due, the whipped cream was actually Yetta's idea. Ezra and I were skeptical and thought it would be too sweet. Then she made us try it and we were converted.

  6. Why didn't you know about this last Thursday when we had hot sweet wort at the ready and I had Talisker and Ardbeg in the cabinet?

    Damn you Beerax!

    But seriously, I first encountered Horlicks at a truck stop somewhere in Malaysia in the middle of the night. Getting off of a AC bus that was kept, for no apparent reason, at about 51 degrees, a hot Horlicks was like manna to this shivering hobo. You were there so you probably have this experience programmed into your psyche like I do and thus this Hot Scotchie sounds wonderful.

    Perhaps now, thanks to Ezra and Jacob, this will become a staple of brewpubs in PDX (though only the ones with a full liquor license).

  7. Never drink cheap scotch... and never bastardize it in some girly foofy drink! ;-)

  8. Further, Maltesers candy produced by Mar in the UK is probably the best candy in the world.

    The Hot Scotchie sound very interesting.

    Based on this blog, I have contacted two homebrewers to provide the mash; I, the Islay.

  9. I am officially dying of envy. I WANT SOME.

  10. I learned Hot Scotchies from the late Russell Schehrer back in the early 1990s, but my favorite Hot Scotchy story involves Bend Brewing's Tonya Cornett back in 1996 when she was Tonya Riddle. She worked at H.C. Berger Brewing, across town from Dimmer's Brewpub in Fort Collins, Colo., where I was head brewer. She didn't get to brew at Berger so her boss, Sandy Jones, asked me if she could come brew with me. What lecherous 35-year-old in his second bachelorhood could say no to that kind of free help. But I made one condition: She had to brew by the "Parker Method." That meant a Hot Scotchy with the first runnings of every batch and a shot of Jameson's each time hops went in the kettle.After the first brew day, she had to call Mark (now her husband) to pick her up.
    Luckily my bad behavior didn't scare her away from brewing.

  11. a.k.a. Brewer's Toddy, with a long and storied history (and present) in the commercial brewing world.

  12. I've been experimenting with this drink a little. I'm trying to find a way to make it a glass at a time, even when I'm not brewing. I was an "extract" brewer for many years, so recognized quickly that DME (dried malt extract, available at any homebrew store) could be used with boiling water to create a single cup of "instant wort". I like dark DME better than light DME for this drink (fuller flavored), and milder Scotches (Johnnie Walker, Glenlivet, etc) better than Islays. Here's my recipe so far:
    1oz (dry weight) DME
    8oz boiling water
    1oz Scotch

    Add the DME to the boiling water in a 12oz coffee mug. Stir till dissolved. Pour in your scotch. Enjoy!

    1oz DME in 8 fl oz of water yields a hot wort with a gravity approximately 1.045 OG. That's enough to give the drink some body, without being *too* sweet and sugary, and approximates the wort for a good session beer.

    I'm still experimenting with the recipe a bit, but so far the results have been rewarding. I'm going to try whipped cream on it soon.


  13. Bill, thanks. I made hot scotchies for a party over the weekend, and I found a pretty easy way to do it for a small group. I have this little round cooler--maybe three gallons--with a spigot at the bottom. I just used one of my large hop sacks and four pounds of grain and did a mini-mash. It is a bit involved compared to DME, but for the average homebrewer, seems quite simple.

  14. Scotchies are pretty great but I tried subing the scotch for 1792 reserve bourbon and it was awesome.