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Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Educational use only; do not reuse.

963 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 963
Hads: 2,037
Avg: 4.06
pDev: 18.23%
Wants: 171
Gots: 240 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy |  8.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 10-08-1998

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Skull Splitter Alström Bros
Reviews: 963 | Hads: 2,037
Photo of ElGordo
3.67/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the 330ml bottle into my Duvel tulip glass. Body is a deep, rich reddish brown, topped by a half-inch coffee-colored head that subsides pretty quickly. Initially I thought it smelled pretty nasty, like spilt lager, but after those esthers wore off, a nice pleasant aroma emerges. Sweet notes of dark fruit (dates? prunes?), brown sugar, roasted malt, and alcohol. Palate is rich and complex. A rich malty base is accented by a molasses-like sweetness, with a significant alcohol presence on the finish. Mouthfeel is creamy, velvety, and a tad foamy, depending on how big your sip is. An interesting brew, originating from one of the most remote and mysterious locations on Earth.

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Photo of bark
3.15/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

The colour is deep wine red with a tint of brown. The foam is gigantic, pale beige, soft and built of medium-sized bubbles.

The smell is dominated by an almost wine-like touch of alcohol. There are some notes of smoked roasted malt, matured cheese, wheat flour, dark bread and a touch of leather.

The carbonation is pretty mild, but it is almost overshadowed by a liquor-like alcohol.

The taste is dominated by a generous, full-bodied taste of roasted malt and alcohol. I could also trace some notes of sweet dried fruits, nuts and a quite mild bitterness. The aftertaste is rather short with flavours like marzipan, hazel nuts and some bitter hops.

This beer is way to strong for me. I prefer the Belgian strong ales.

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Photo of RootedFool
4.3/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured straight down into my Maudite goblet from an 11.2 ounce bottle purchased at the North Coast Co-op in Arcata, California. I love the bright red neck foil and label graphic that depicts Thorfinn Hausakluif, the "skullsplitter" in Scottish history -- it's too tacky not to love.

A dense and mighty head rises right to the rim of my goblet, thanks in part to my nearly vertical pour, light tan and creamy in appearence. The body is a very dark brown -- deep, deep mahogany -- with crimson highlights when held to direct light.


Ah, a big waft of earthy sweetness, like brown sugar caramelizing over a grill out in the open post-rain storm air, somewhere in the middle of the woods. The finish reveals a nice, although thin, sourdough twang.


Big sweetness right out of the gate: plums, golden raisins sauteed in rum and sugar (yes, rum; the alcohol is felt), baked green apples. Toward the middle some hops appear -- sharp and sizzling, but still understated -- and prevent the sweetness from becoming overpowering. The finish is a lingering tickle of alcohol bite and meaty sweetness all around my palate, and an alcohol warmth throughout my throat and spreading around my gut. Lovely.


Plenty of carbonation, which helps hold up the thickness of this brew. Has the consistency of whole milk, if not slightly heavier in consistency.

I'm glad I finally decided to give this brew a try.

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Photo of GClarkage
3.82/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

01/02/05- Purchased at Beverages and More in Oakland, CA

Presentation- 11.2 oz bottle with a viking on the front. No expiration date. I know I've had it for at least 6 months though. Poured into my La Chouffe tulip glass.

Appearance- Dark cherry-auburn color. 1/4 inch head which didn't last long. Just the slightest of lace.

Smell- Not a very outward scent. Had to struggle to get some sweet raisins and maybe dates and prunes.

Taste- This beer has a lot going on. At first you can taste some dark cherries. Then the caramel, dates and raisins hit. Then it turns to a roasted dark flavor, almost a bit smoky.

Mouthfeel- Higher carbonation than expected. A fairly full beer. Maybe even a bit thick.

Drinkability- A very interesting beer. Many little nuances all in this little beer. At 8.5 it's pretty drinkable. To bad the lack of smell and appearance brings down the beer a bit. Pretty tasty.

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Photo of HappyHourHero
3.58/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Medium sized, dense, light brown colored head doesn't last long, but leaves some specs of lace. Deep mahogany colored beer with a caramel hue. Mildly sweet caramel aroma with a bit of malt and pinch of wine. Some chocolatte, dark fruit, and some roasted malt in the flavor. Finish is kind of cocoa bitter. Body doesn't seem very thick. There's a burst of carbonation up front, but the beer becomes watery towards the end. The carbonation seems a bit off and there's a strange vinuous aroma hiding in there, but otherwise the beer is pretty nice.

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Photo of GreenWBush
4.34/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Ruby brown. A gigantic head that keeps going and going. Flecks of red coagulated proteins, but no apparent oxidation. Top notch lace.

The nose is indecipherably complex. Fruity esters sit amongst smoky Scotch peatiness, hints of cider and red wine, and a strangely contrasting leathery booze-bread.

Wow, that is tasty. Its been years since i've had a skull-splitter and its much better than I even remember. Major malt complexities and ample but refined hop presense make this immensely drinkable with no hint at the almost 9% ABV. I'd really like to see what this does with age.

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Photo of PorterLambic
4.47/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep, rich brown with a hint of red. Good head, tight & firm with some scattered lace. Smell is malty sweet, smoke, peat, nutty with a hint of oak barrel to it. Taste is oakey, malty, smoky, roasty, with a peaty presence and a kind of whisky flavor to it. Alcohol becomes more noticeable as it warms but not overpowering at all. Mouthfeel is smooth, rich, creamy, full-bodied and warming the back of the mouth and throat. Drinkability is very high. The 8.5% ABV limits you but the great flavor, balance and complexity command you to drink this hearty brew like a good Viking should.

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Photo of shippos
3.51/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

popped the cap with pretty decent fizz. poured with a good amount of co2 escaping into a head that doesn't quit until the last drop and brillantly clear amber color. for the life of me i can't detect a damn thing in the aroma, not sure if it's an off day or what. I do get a faint hint of caramel with a bit of alcohol. gotta admit that the body and taste of this beer was a bit of a let down, I was hoping for a little more thicker malt character and a decent "scottish" taste/aroma. seems pretty balanced and maybe a bit on the old side. still if it isn't a very nicely balanced beer and nothing really extraordinary about it.

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Photo of brewQ
4.03/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The name and look of the package are somewhat juvenile.
The brew, on the other hand, is close to elegant.

Dark brown color with, seriously, purple highlights.
Aroma is sweet and fruity. Unremarkable head,

The flavor fills the mouth and ends with a pleasant warmth.
Disarmingly drinkable at 8.5% abv.

Yes, I will be putting this into my rotation.

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.42/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: Small looking 11.2 fluid ounce [330ml] brown glass wee nipper of a bottle. Label per the BA Avatar with a nice looking red metallic foil that covers the upper neck and hides a crown cap that has the Orkney Brewery Logo on it. Named after Thorfinn Hausakluif (a.k.a. Skullsplitter), the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney. Labeled at 8.5% ABV.

Appearance: Lovely turbid dark brown chestnut body with some dense ruby highlights when backlit. Creamy vanilla head leaves a film like lacing that clings to the sides of my freshly cleaned Duvel glass extremely easily. The head soon breaks in the middle leaving a thick cream colored halo ring

Nose: Tenacious dark fruity nose that has some rich plums, smoke malts, rich warm caramels and slick toffee.

Taste: Mildly warming entrance that allows the nose to transform its aromas directly into tangible flavors. Caramel malts, toffee, dark fruits, some raisin character, mushed dates and a little Single Malt alcohol burn in the back end. Smooth but very lush and rich at times, this one is a winner.

Mouthfeel: Sticky Toffee Pudding with a malted appreciation for the finely attenuated carbonation that supports the chewy body. Nice!!

Drinkability: Easily partaken for an 8.5% Wee Heavy. Damn drinkable.

Overall: I have had this Cask on many times, but this is one of those rare UK beers that is just as good from the Bottle as it is Cask. And it cost only $2.29, worth every feckinÂ’ pennie.


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Photo of ViveLaChouffe
4.42/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep mahogany with hints of cherry red around the edges. 1/4 in light tan head that thins but is lacy as hell. Smells of rich sweet malt and sour cherry fruitiness.

Tastes of sweet fruity malt. Sour cherry flavors underneath and a light but persistent hoppy bitterness in the finish. When cold, it is a bit thinner than you would expect and seem sa bit too fizzy. As it warms however the sweet malt asserts itself and the beer actually seems to thicken in your mouth. Seems not so fizzy too. Nicely balanced and REALLY smooth for a bigger beer. It's strength is subtle and really sneaks up on you. Warming sensations and a sticky sweet aftertaste. Dangerously drinkable.

Literally, one of the first craft brews I ever had and haven't had it in years. While initially disappointed, the Skullsplitter did not forsake me and still can deliver the goods.

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Photo of Billolick
4.12/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2 ouncer, nice red foil and Viking photo on label. This fine brew pours dark caramel/almond, with a white head and leaves a bit of loose lacing. Nose is peat, must, and wiskey. Full bodied, sticky,tasty, warming and rich. This brew has alot of character, flavor and complexity. Alcohol notes. Caramel,vanilla, wiskey, leather, anise all noted. Alot of brew personality in a small package. Enjoyable strong ale from Scotland.

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Photo of steinlifter
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer poured a caramel color, with a tan head that quickly dissipated, but left mild lacing throughout
smell: sweet smelling malts,fruit
taste: molasses, sweet malt, but I detect some hops as well, alcohol bite and warmth.
mouthfeel: medium carbonation, light and creamy
drinkability: very good! maybe not a session beer, but this beer had a complex fruity, malty, taste, that was fairly balanced, I thought it was delicious, and would DEFINITELY warm you on a cold night, good stuff!

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Photo of dgallina
3.86/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Attractive clear dark red & brown in color. Tan head with good body and peaks which dissipate fairly quickly. Light lacing on the glass.

Strong roasted aromas with powerful undercurrents of alcohol

Sweet roasted malt flavor with some hop bitterness for balance. Strong alcohol undertones. A dry, toasty finish.

Smooth mouth-feel with fairly strong carbonation. Very drinkable for a beer with 8.5% ABV, though I wouldn't want to drink too many or too quickly.

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Photo of RBorsato
4.58/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Mahogany colored with a decent creamy tan/lt. brown head that's constantly low lying. DEEP caramel malt flavors with aroma similar but a bit more subdued. Malt flavors are intense with dark fruit characteristics present but subdued. Light spicy heather/smokiness (?) in aroma and taste. Full bodied and rich with a toasty dry finish and an alcohol presence.

Very nice very strong Wee Heavy !

Per Beer Club notes: "Heather instead of hops"

(11.2 oz / 330ml)

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Photo of 99bottles
4.5/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I was somewhat surprised at this beer, only because of it's wacky label. I was expecting something like Bezelbuth (shudder) and instead got something like St Bernardus. This beer poured into a wine glass had a rich reddish brown color and a soft head of yellow tan that had average retention. Smell was of carmelized sugar, plum, and raisin, faint breath of alcohol. The taste is immeadiately smooth and satisfying with a massive dose of malt. Not as spicy as some Scotch ales, this had exceptional depth in its fruit flavors, the esters tasting mostly of raisin, fig, plum with a heavy sweetness of carmel. Alcohol is noticeable, but nicely suited to the beer. This is a great after dinner sipper, and a surprisingly tasty beer despite the cheesy Viking.

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Photo of diamonddave
3.97/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

The label features some dork dressed up like a Viking, which should appeal to anyone who still has those Frank Frazetta posters on the wall in their bedroom (a.k.a. Mom's basement).

I bought a 4-pack thinking it would be one of those super-strong pale Euro things. I don't know what the hell made me think that. This is dark brown with a thick frothy head. Smells very sweet and caramely (if that's a word) with a hint of rotting fruit (in a good way). I'm pleasantly surprised by how wrong my expectations were for this beer.

The taste is very thick and rich; again, lots of caramel. Malty with a hint of raisins or something. But what do I know? Until today, I wasn't even aware that "Wee Heavy" was a beer category. (I thought it was the title of the upcoming R. Kelly album.) Whatever it is, it's pretty damn satisfying and filling. Makes me wanna burn down some thatched-roof cottages whilst ravishing yon maidens.

I can't imagine drinking more than one or two of these in a sitting, because 1. it's so strong and heavy and 2. it's freakin' expensive. I paid $8.99 for four 11.2 oz. bottles. What's up with that, anyway? You don't think we deserve the extra .8 ounces? I shalt dispatch thee to Valhalla! Er, wait, isn't Valhalla like heaven for Vikings? Whatever... good beer, drink sparingly, etc.

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Photo of Shaw
4.5/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a beautiful deep clear ruby beer with a massive head of foam. It leaves a light lace down my glass.

Its smell is unique. Kinda musty, like it's been aged in barrels. I think I smell a bit of sourness and even wine-like notes? Wild.

The biggest flavor I note is a smokey, peaty taste. This taste gets hidden after a few sips by toasted and roasted malt flavors. The smoke flavors come back to play in the aftertaste. There's all kinds of complex flavor wars going on in this ale. My poor words don't do it justice. Try it for yourself.

This is a very good beer, with a price that matches. Seek it out. I'd love to visit this brewery, too. They look like they're in a fabulous location.

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Photo of skybluewater
3.78/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep rust color, no lacing. Tastes malty, with a nice raisin undertone, with a bit of dried fruit as well. Warming alcohol present. It really tastes almost like a thin barleywine. Not a bad beer, one I'd return to every once in a while, if it was't $2.50 for such a small bottle.

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Photo of TastyTaste
4.28/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours deep, deep brown, near black, not much head, 1/4" at most. Smells very woody, mostly piney, like sawdust almost. Taste is very strong and complex. A strong raisin/berry flavor combines with piney hops, slightly sweet malt, that finishes with an alcohol burn. Definitely a different kind of beer. Worth $2.99 for an 11.2 oz bottle? n Not quite, but still good.

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Photo of trancefishy
4.25/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

in the glass, this is the colour of new motor oil, minus the viscosity. head is a think off white creature with very small bubbles.
nose is unique, in that i pick up yeast of some sort, what i can imagine is malt, and an unknown binder between the two.
when this hits your mouth, there is a dancing carbonation with flavours of sweet stickiness that leaves the palatte with the sensation of having sucked on a caramel chew. long, lingering, sweet aftertaste that leaves you wanting another swig. there are also flavours of black licorice, lactic acid, and sherry in there.
i like this beer, and i get it a couple times a year to remind me how unique and tasty of a brew it is.

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Photo of HiroProtagonist
4.18/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Skullspitter was served from a 330ml bottle. In a Duvel tulip, the beer was a gorgeous deep ruby color, and was topped by a thin off-white head. The nose presented a rich set of aromas, including late-harvest grape, rye bread, Worcestershire sauce, raisin, sharp molasses, and a nice musty woodiness that held it together. Tasting the beer revealed a figgy-raisin roasted malt profile that pleased the tastebuds with accents of nutty-scotch and a subtle peat smokiness. The finish was lightly bittered with woody dry flavor. The flavors were well balanced and satisfying, and the alcohol remained completely hidden throughout. This rich ale was exceptionally smooth, with an appropriately full body. Skullspitter is a solid, well-crafted beer that was a delight to drink. I think Thorfinn Hausakluif would approve of his namesake brew.

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Photo of oracle
4.71/5  rDev +16%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This bottle was purchased during my birthday celebration, where I was determined to try at least 5 new beers. This by far-and-away was the highlight of the night. Consumed at room temperature.

Smelled richly of malt with strong alcohol presence.

Tasted delightful. Complex malt character with just enough hops and other flavor to keep it interesting. Has 8.5% ABV and tastes it. I can easily see this beer living up to its name if consumed by the careless.

Overall, an excellent beer.

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Photo of Ahhdball
3.97/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked this up in a four pack at a downtown market. Why? It looked cool. C'mon, the name, the label, it's a fr33kin' Viking for f0cks sake!
It poured thick, thick coating on the glass insinuates some stickiness. No head to cap off the top.
Smell is complex. Raisons, dates, sugar, floral hints with some spice.
At first drink all the dark fruits came on strong surrounded by alcohol and toffee with a bit of caramel. Good, complex, not for virgins.
Thick feel, chewy and leaves a lacing behind in the gullet that only requests more.

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Photo of rajendra82
3.82/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep copper brown color and a good two finger sized head underlain by medium carbonation made this an attractive looking beer. The aroma was roasty and sweet chocolate malts and faintly grassy hops. The sweet fruity taste had notes of apples, melons, toffee, and pears, the hops were floral and spicy, and the yeast provided earthy accents, however the emphasis was primarily on malt here. The overall taste was very similar to a Belgian Dubbel, except the hops are a bit stronger here, and the beer lacked the dusty powdery yeast that marks the Dubbles. The mouthfeel was medium thick, and had a mouth coating stickiness. The beer was quite drinkable despite being on the big side. A very good treat for all the maltmouths out there.

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
91 out of 100 based on 963 ratings.