A Beer With the Brewer: Monnik’s Scott Hand

Scott Hand finally found the right job. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of interviews with local brewers.

Some years ago, Scott Hand was a personal gardener. Most of his clients were elderly women, and he would help them out with their yards, trimming shrubs, working in gardens and the like.

“Mostly, it was about keeping them company,” he says, smiling.

The point is, Monnik Beer Co.’s head brewer did a little bit of everything over the course of his adult life, in part because he never really knew what he wanted to do. He worked in greenhouses, moved furniture, ran sound for an outdoor theater production of “The Legend of Daniel Boone” in Harrodsburg. At one point, he made magnets for a living.

He cooked in a Chinese restaurant — er, make that several Chinese restaurants in Lexington. Apparently, many of the restaurant owners were from Hong Kong and hung pretty tightly together socially.

Brewing at home led to a career. | Courtesy of Monnik Beer Co.

“Hong Kong is a big gambling town, and they go big,” Hand says, sipping a brew at the Monnik bar on a recent afternoon. During this time in his life, Hand would sometimes come in to work and be told to go to a different restaurant that day. It happened several times until he noticed a pattern.

“I finally figured out, ‘This is always the morning after the poker game,’ ” Hand says. Yes, his boss was “losing” him in poker games.

This wasn’t the job Hand wanted. What he did know is that he was interested in chemistry and physics, along with creating things for himself. He had a wide range of interests, actually, but had a difficult time sticking with one thing for long.

He also knew he liked beer.

“As a little kid, I loved getting my dad a beer when he was working in the yard,” he says. “Part of the reason I would ask (to get him one) is that he always let me have a sip.”

As he grew up, he says, he developed a taste for imported beers, primarily from England and Germany — “I might not have been of age” — and says it was Beck’s Dark that “woke me up.”

A friend called him one day and told him Liquor Barn was selling home-brew supplies, which led to his first home-brew, a brown ale. He devoured Charlie Papazian’s “The Joy of Home Brewing,” sort of a home-brewer’s bible.

For years, he brewed by himself, but after some time — during which time he felt he wasn’t developing as a brewer — he joined a home-brewing club, Brewers of Central Kentucky, and began studying to get certified to be a beer judge. Then, in 2010, he heard Alltech, which operates Kentucky Ale in Lexington, was hiring.

“I thought, ‘This is the only time I’m going to be able to put my home-brewing on my résumé,’ ” he says.

Scott Hand behind the scenes at Monnik | Photo by Kevin Gibson

His love of breweries took him to Beer Engine in Danville, Ky., where he met owners Brian Holton and Ian Luijk. Friendships formed, ideas were exchanged, and when the duo opened Monnik in 2015, Hand was their choice for head brewer.

It took the better part of his adult life, but Hand finally had found his ideal job.

“Brewing was something that, the more I did it, the more interesting it became,” he says. “It kind of took care of my wide range of interests, because it encompassed everything that humanity has ever done, basically. It’s one of the first kind of food products there is. There are a lot of technological developments that are civilization-changing that are centered around the production of beer.”

Even his main hobby is beer. Or, as he puts it, “coming to work.” He does have a strong interest in music, however, and even plays a little guitar in his spare time. He says he has developed a taste for a wide variety of music, from 1930s jazz to punk.

“It’s all music, and music is a good thing,” he says. “Except for modern country, which is the true industrial music. Soulless garbage.”

He even gets to put his music collection on shuffle when he’s working, so it’s another layer of win for a guy who once didn’t quite know what to do with himself. Of all the jobs he’s had, he says, “This is the best one of the bunch.”

“I can’t be an accountant,” he continues. “I don’t like sitting in front of computer for a long time. I like to physically do stuff and I like making things. Working here, it’s perfect. I go in the back and I do all that stuff and then I come up here and I drink it.”