Brew Review

Beer Review – The Orkney Brewery’s Skullsplitter

The Orkney Brewery Skullsplitter

At the beginning of every beer review, we typically tell you why we made a particular beer purchase, and we’ll even let you know where we made our beer purchase. While this information doesn’t really speak to the quality of the beer that is being reviewed, it does get you inside our heads so that you can understand why we buy what we buy. Sometimes it has to do with word of mouth about a particular beer getting the best of us, and sometimes it has to do with us being suckers for marketing gobbledygook, i.e. pretty labels and bottles.

When you look at the label in the above picture, I think it’s pretty obvious why I bought this bottle of The Orkney Brewery’s Skullsplitter. If you have any doubts, check out the movie trailer that immediately popped into my head when I first saw this beer…

Now that you that I’m a sucker for pretty labels and family movies about Vikings and dragons (FYI, I highly recommend How To Train Your Dragon!), let’s find out a bit more about this beer from the good people at The Orkney Brewery

Skull Splitter is our strongest ale: which is named after Thorfinn Einarsson who was the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney. Sophisticated, satiny smooth with a deceptively light character, it is a tribute to our colourful forbear.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the review…

  • Appearance: Dark reddish brown color with ruby red highlights at the edges when held up to the light. Fast rising, tan foam that settles down to a thin bead that hugs the edge of the glass.
  • Aroma: Very fruity and malty with little to no hop scent. I’m picking up fig jam, dried fruit, and some musty grapes.
  • Taste: Lightly carbonated with a medium mouthfeel. Lots of those dried fruits and jams coming through immediately. A bit of baking spices coming through as well, i.e. some nutmeg and allspice (very subtle). Mild hop bitterness kicks in towards the finish to lend some balance and a subtle booziness shows up at well. Mellow, malty, and lightly bitter finish that coasts your mouth with flavor and lingers for a minute or two.
  • ABV: 8.5%

This is my second experience with The Orkney Brewery’s Skullsplitter. I first had this beer during an anniversary dinner with Mrs. G-LO at a Scottish gastropub in Manhattan called Highlands. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “sipping whisky”, well this is a sipping beer. If I had to compare it to another beer (we all need a reference point right?), I would say that it reminds me of the Trappistes Rochefort 6, or a much less hoppy version of Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine. This beer is the opposite of a thirst quencher, and it’s definitely not a summer or lawnmower beer. While it’s not as heavy as an Imperial Stout, the flavors are definitely rich, and lend themselves to being savored over an extended period of time. I really enjoyed this beer and definitely recommend it, but I will probably wait for the colder months to come back around before I have it again.

5 replies »

  1. I associate a different movie clip with particular brew, pity I lack the skills necessary to call it upon command and cause it to appear here for a seamless viewing. That said, the scene is the opening of the banquet dinner in the second Indiana Jones flick (Temple of Doom?). More specifically, the opening of the pre-split monkey skulls granting easy access to the delicacy borne therefrom. Lovely presentation.

    Orkney’s Skull Splitter is frighteningly similar. A virtual doppleganger to the presentation and contents of the primate noggin but for the stuff inside and the vessel. It’s pre-split just like the monkey skulls so there’s no need to bash it against the brick pizza hearth to gain the prize within. This is particularly important because many forget to line the strainer with cheesecloth, thereby potentially allowing small glass shards to be introduced to the recovered brew.

    I’m not a fan of the beer itself. Tastes like a Scotch Ale on grey market steroids. The flavors are there but way out of balance. Far too boozy as well. Had an ethanol quality about it which rarely works in a craft beer.

    Despite that, it does make for a sweet photo subject – nice work up there as usual.



    • Geez. Now I have “Faces of Death” on the brain (see what I did there? Ha! I finally got to use that!).

      Scotch Ale! That makes perfect sense. It’s interesting that you didn’t like this one. We’re usually on the same page with regards to our taste in beer. I thought it was quite good, but not something I’d drink often. And that label! Love it!


    • I bought this beer for the label also. I don’t appreciate scotch ales. I really don’t appreciate formaldehyde in a beer bottle. Totally undrinkable, and I like a lot of beers, and distilled spirits. Don’t waste your time, money, or taste buds. I poured it down the drain, literally. Sober post.


  2. How many skulls does one have to split before one is worthy of the nickname “Skull Splitter”? I would think amongst Vikings the number would be higher than amongst the general population.

    I’m a fan of this beer, too…occasionally. It’s big.


    • That’s a valid question. I would think you gotta be pretty bad ass to split some Viking skulls. Especially when they wear helmets made from their mother’s breast plates.


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