Of Lochs and Monsters | Old Irving Brewing
Even so often, we here at ABV Chicago manage to time things up just right. Case in point – March 2023. We’ve done an Irish Red show and I’ve reviewed Off Color’s Drowning Shamrock, all in honor of March’s only holiday St. Patrick’s Day. If it were up to us, we’d definitely continue that trend with some Irish-adjacent beer – the scotch ale, also known as a wee heavy. Probably because of its Scottish origins it doesn’t get as heavily released during this time as Irish-originated styles or green things, but at least one brewery decided to release one and I’m here for it. Old Irving Brewing went ahead and released Of Lochs and Monsters just in time for revelry!
For some reason, scotch ales/wee heavys don’t get released often (or at all). Even fewer become seasonal or year-round. Everytime we have one on the show, we rattle off all the ones we’re familiar with. Typically that’s Third Space’s Unite the Clans (Patreon Exclusive) and 3 Floyds’ Robert the Bruce; barrel-aged versions fare a bit bitter, as Central Waters’ Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale, Revolution’s Gravedigger Billy and Founders’ Backwood Bastard come to mind. But really that’s it. Guess we need a Scottish holiday in the US to get more scotch ales out there. (Fact check: One exists – National Tartan Day on April 6th!)
Of Lochs and Monsters represents Old Irving’s first foray in the scotch ale sector. It pours a caramel color with two fingers of white head. That head slowly and methodically recedes until only a thin layer atop the beer remains. A dark brown resting in the glass, Of Lochs and Monsters gains some crimson or red highlights when held up directly to light. As much as I tried, I couldn’t see my finger on the other side of it.
Surprisingly, Of Lochs and Monsters features an aggressive aroma. That’s not a bad thing at all. Big bready aromas lead the charge, but more complexity awaited me. Honey nose flavors support that, resulting in a lovely sweetbread combo. Some roastiness decided to play nice and join in, adding some aromatic depth. But wait, there’s more! Toffee and nuts attended the party as well and even a hint of smokiness stopped by for a bit. (The smokiness wasn’t much at all, nowhere near rauchbier levels.) The variety and heft of the aroma – it leapt out of the can when I opened it – really made me excited to drink it.
Of Lochs and Monsters pulls no punches on the palate. The bread notes lead the charge again, covering your mouth with grainy goodness. A honey-like sweetness from the malt supports that, with some toffee and nuttiness adding some depth. A wisp of smokiness shows up at the very end of the sip but again nothing too significant. After some time out of the fridge some earthy bitterness and floral notes start showing up as well. A fair amount of complexity for a wee heavy.
Of Lochs and Monsters adds a surprisingly full mouthfeel to all that complexity. Comparing it to Unite the Clans and even Central Waters’ barrel-aged take, it feels fuller across the tongue. But that full mouthfeel does not come at the expense of drinkability. Of Lochs goes down lager-like, resulting in a crisp finish that leaves you wanting more. But the nuttiness and toffee notes like to party so they hang around and mingle on the tongue. Add to that some of that bitterness this 7.5% ABV beer goes down way too easy. Plus you want to keep drinking it for the flavor!
I honestly had no preconceived notions about Of Lochs and Monsters when I grabbed it off the shelf. I knew it was a scotch ale and Old Irving’s brewing reputation. What I drank was easily the best non-barrel-aged scotch ale from a Chicago brewery I’ve had and definitely competes with the barrel-aged ones (which can veer a little boozy). If you’re a fan of scotch ales, grab this; if you’re curious about them, still grab this. I’m hoping Old Irving has some sitting in barrels for either a tap-only or can release for next year. It would be interesting to try that!