Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

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Skull SplitterSkull Splitter
2,226 Ratings
Skull SplitterSkull Splitter

Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 10-08-1998

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,226 |  Reviews: 1,011
Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked up as a 12oz single at Wilbur's in Ft. Collins. Approximately $4.

A: A light brown, leather color, almost no head at all. What few bubbles are there are khaki in color. Crystal clear. Nice red/brown accents when held to the light. Mostly in the brown realm. A little lighter in color than others I've had, but not too shabby.

S: Lots of earthy and spicy tones, no one flavor really pops out in the nose, buttery smells, almost no alcohol which is quite interesting given the abv.

T: Very sweet and syrupy, there is a whole lot of bready, doughy, malt characteristic, spices are present, somewhat of a chocolate flavor but really not that pronounced, slight alcohol bite at the end. This a very malty beer. I can't really detect much of a hop characteristic, and in fact can sense almost no bitterness at all. Nice molasses character.

M: Thick and syrupy. Not a whole lot of carbonation, sticky mouthfeel and finish. Nice alcohol burn to compliment the flavor.

D: This goes down really smooth and easy. No troubles at all drinking this beer, and the alcohol is nicely hidden, minus the burn. I could put a few of these away in a night. Great beer.

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Photo of Vengeance526
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours to a dark ruby-amber color with a decent beige head that leaves a fair amount of lacing on the glass.

Aroma of roasted malt, toffee and caramel sweetness. Some spices detected as beer begins to warm.

Taste reveals a mildly smoky character, with touches of butterscotch and pepper.

The 8.5% is well hidden behind the spices of this brew, leaving a slight warming effect on the way down but in no way dominating the overall feel or flavor. Very smooth and extremely easy to drink.

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Photo of bluemoonswoon
4.32/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.2 oz bottle poured into a pokal kind of glass.

Pours a suprisingly light and clear amber brown, for some reason every time I think of a scotch ale I feel as though it should be black for some reason. The only know against this one is the lackluster head that only forms a lasting beige cap with sparse lacing, I mean maybe the hops aren't strong enough to keep the head aflot but I was hoping for something a bit thicker.

Very sweet and malty, not as smokey as I thought it might be, I really think I am getting scotch ales confused with rauchbiers from some reason. In any case the combination of chocolate, toffee and caramel is something to truly behold, I mean there are beers brewed with chocolate that don't smell as much like chocolate as this beer does. All the while there is a lingering spiciness that allows everything else to come before it while still alerting you to its presence.

First few sips were pure chocolate, I swear. I was taken back a bit by how chocolatly it seemed to me at first. After a few more sips and after the beer has warmed a bit in my hands the spicier aspects of this beer being to fully develop and this is where the beer takes on a complexity all its own. I'd say there is a slight tea like bitterness in this beer on account of what appears to be a boquet of spicies dancing around my palate. Black pepper, buttery caramel, bitter cocoa, and slightly smoked wood all are present here. Not really getting that whiskey taste though it boats many characteristic flavors that many whiskies possess so that is a bit strange, the blending of flavors in this beer does not match that, or does not make me think of it as tasting like whiskey. Mouthfeel is chewy as it should be and carbonation levels are where I would expect them to be for a beer this size but not as viscious as I would like it to be, instead it feels rather clingy, sticky on the back of the throat.

From what I've experienced here this beer seems to be a bit underrated, though to be fair I tend to fall in love with beers the more I drink them so I may be at the slightest bit of fault here. I'd say this beer is pretty complex, flavor and aroma are exceptional, but the feel and the ABV bring this down slightly in overall drinkability. A great beer no doubt about it.

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Photo of praufs01
3.6/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - Clear dark brown with a creamy light tan head.

Aroma - Freshly baked yeasty bread and molasses.

Mouthfeel - Full bodied chewy brew with light carbonation.

Taste - Molasses and burnt caramel flavors.

Overall - Well rounded and smooth ale.

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Photo of dolemite77
3.25/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I need a little hops with my beer, this one is all malt it seems. Pours a hazy brown with orange highlights... Not much in the head department. Aroma of band aids and malt. The flavor fits that profile as well. Very phenolic, and the alcohol only comes through at the end. I think this could have done with a little more roasted malt, a touch of hops, and less forced alcohol.

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Photo of magictrokini
3.83/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours deep reddish-brown with no head. Aroma of smoke, fruit and sweet malts. Taste is roasted malt and caramel with some yeast/bread flavors. No real peat or smokey goodness, but this does well without. Hides the alcohol very well. Smooth, without being earthy.

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Photo of bmwats
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into pint glass.

A: Dark reddish-amber. Big, frothy, dark ivory colored head. Dissipates slowly, and leaves a thin layer of carbonation on top. Heavy lacing remains.

S: Strong toasted malt aroma with hints of spice.

T: Heavy yeasty, raisin and licorice, and roasted malt.

M: Aroma and taste really fills the mouth. Sweet aftertaste remains through the entire experience.

D: Great quaff. Strong flavor, but not so overwhelming it makes you sip. Drinks easy, and goes down amazingly smooth considering its strong flavor.

This is a good one. Highly recommended. Drinks kinda' like a barleywine. Just as flavorful, but lighter and more refreshing. You know how with a barleywine, it's great to sip slowly and enjoy; this you want to power through and get to the next one.

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Photo of bowersdm
3.42/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

A - Nice red color with a stiff 2cm head.

S - Lots of hop presence, a strong floral aroma. Unfortunately, there's a lot of alcohol present too.

T - Roasted malts followed by a hop presence. I wished the hops' taste was as present as their aroma. Last but not least, the alcohol, a strong scotch like taste.

M - Thin.

D - More flavor would have been nice (whether hops or malt.) This reminded me off my last excursion with a bottle of Glenfiddich (which didn't end pleasantly). If you like strong alcohol tastes in your beers, then this is for you, but I didn't really enjoy the taste.

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Photo of cvfish
4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a deep amber reddish color that produced a generous white head that laced the glass well

S - Roasted malts and toffee

T - A buttery, toffee taste mixed with roasted malts, but also had a sweet honey hints to it!

M - Smooth heavy bodied, not much carbonation

D - Great beer, will be enjoyed many times over. FREEDOM! Sorry, couldn't resist

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Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
3.43/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

11.2 oz. bottle > small snifter

This one is a deep, rusty amber color, crystal crear, very vivid with a 2" deep brown-tinted head with moderate dissipation and plenty of foam left over.

The nose has an herbal maltiness with subtle espresso notes. sour dough bread in the malt, spices, black pepper hoppiness, smoked salami and peat moss.

yowza! This has a thick, brown sugar and molasses thickness with good complexity and well rounded malt. The balance comes from spicey yeast and grainy hops, malty but very earthy with a metallic, bitter finish. The feel is heavy, smooth and then dry. The heat is a bit high and comes through like grain alcohol with some bitterness left over.

I found this one to be rather un-even and strangelt balanced. bold flavor's with just too much residual sugar and heat. Interesting but limited.

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Photo of CHSLBrew
4.14/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into an imperial pint glass.

A-A copper to dark-copper beer, crystal clear. Topped with a tan head, which quickly reduced to pretty much nothing

S-Rich, hearty toffee. This assertive toffee maltiness lets me know what I'm in for when I take a sip.

T-Deep toffee and nutty malts, crisply sweet with no perceptible bitterness or hop character. The darkness of the toffee flavors are complimented by hints of malty sweetness. A bit of alcohol flavors on the finish, but no anything at all harsh.

M-Beautiful and smooth on my palate, with a medium-low carbonation that's present just enough to notice it. Body provides a smooth experience.

D-Highly drinkable. A smooth and enjoyable Scotch ale, extensively flavorful. I sincerely look forward to enjoying another one in the future.

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Photo of OtherShoe2
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours deep amber with a decent creamy head and good lacing rings.

Smells of rich toasted malt, some caramel sweetness, a dry grain scent as well. Terrific.

Sweet rich flavors of caramel, toasty malt, and alcohol warmth, combined with slight bitterness and a clean dry finish. Wonderful beer.

Mouthfilling and warming, this isn't a session brew, but funny enough, it is something you'd like to drink alot of. Terrific example of the style. Not cheap -- small bottle was $4.00 -- but grab some if you can find it.

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Photo of Magpie14
4.34/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: deep crimson in color, decent cream colored head, splattered lacing all around.

S: big buttery, candied caramel, and malty with tart fruits

T: burly-rich roasted malts, considerable candy-like honeyed caramel, faint alcohol and slight buttery finish. Nothing meager about this one!

M: very smooth body and a touch on the heavy side...teetering on the viscous line, maybe more like a syrupy feel. Whatever it is, I can not get enough

D: the only real downside to this one is the packaging. I got a little piece of red foil in the glass during the pour! (no biggie) Otherwise, top notch-give it a try. Take your time and enjoy, it makes the knees weak rather quickly

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Photo of cvstrickland
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The red-foiled, 11.2-ounce bottle, embarrassingly-clad with a laughable image of a Thorfinn Hausakluif poser (Mr. Skullsplitter himself would likely have stuck a battleaxe in this cheeseball pretender's noggin), poured into a pint willi glass yields a clear, rich copper body topped with a finger of fine, creamy ecru foam. The head recedes rather quickly into a ring that leaves a scant few patches of lacing on the glass.

The smell of the drink is richly malty and sweet with a bit of acrid peat smoke and a whiff of warm butterscotch. Rich, succulent, and mild.

The taste is lots more of the same, with softly buttery toffee, dark caramel and warm toasted malts dominating the show. A twang of molasses and a note of sourwood honey bring more sweetness, even as a spicy hop note, an aromatic woodiness and a touch of peppery alcohol liven the flavor profile and offer a touch of welcome balance to the drink.

Skullsplitter is silky and fullish in body with a little syrupiness cut by fine carbonation. A fine and excellent drink for would-be Viking overlords and non-violent beer-lovers alike. Nicely drinkable.

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Photo of popery
4.03/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a dark amber with a sticky head. It has a very nice look for a beer of this style. The smell is sweet fruit and caramel. The taste is brown sugar and bitter malt flavors. The beer has a nice, smooth feel and good drinkability for its style and abv. On a side note, this beer really doesn't do a lot of skullsplitting despite its name. It's a smooth malty beer. I get that it's a "strong" style and it's stronger than common beers, but it's a fairly mellow beer that masks its alcohol content well. Actually, it's not even the taste that makes me think the name is silly but the bottle. It just looks tiny. It's narrow and tall and only 11.2 oz for some reason (maybe, that's standard in other parts of the world but it's odd to me). I think Mike's Hard Lemonade is 11.2, also, and that's just a poor association. I'm sure that there are tons of great beers in 11.2 oz bottles, but this one just feels silly with its little viking (or Scot warrior, whatever(oh, just read the back and it is a viking)) picture and red foil fanciness. I know this is completely off-topic. I like the beer, but I think that I'll pour it and toss the bottle in the future. Right now, that tiny little viking is staring at me and all I can think about is him coming alive and having a tiny squeaky voice. It's sort of unfortunate that I just tried Budweiser's American Ale because it's a very similar bottle but normal-sized, which is probably contributing to my obsession with this bottle's size. Come to think of it, there are definitely other strong beers in little bottles. I really don't get it. So, you make a strong beer, give it an overly aggressive name, throw on some manly artwork, and put it in a tiny bottle? Ok, enough ranting. It's good beer, regardless.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.32/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured a clean deep amber with a white head that does not hang around. In the nose, a sweet malt and somewhat earthy. In the taste, a sweet malty beer, with hints of caramel/ butterscotch, and a alcohol presence. It has a dry sticky mouthfeel. It is a bigger beer, with big alcohol and big flavors, the sweetness to this is nice though.

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Photo of rbrough
4.61/5  rDev +13%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Loved this Ale or should I classify as a Scotch Ale. As I was at a college basement bar I drank this offering out of a bottle so I can't comment on the color. However, the taste and aroma of this ale was enough to make me very, very happy. This ale smelled fantastic and lured me in for a healthy first sip. WOW! Can I say smooth. This ale had a soft pleasing feel to the palate and a wonderful aftertaste. I couldn't get enough of this offering. Of course, at 8.5% ABV I had to keep thing in perspective. If you get a chance to try this wonderful brew I can't urge you enough to not pass it by.

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Photo of SirChugsAlot
4.13/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy amber with ruby red hints and a fuzzy bubble 1 finger that lingers on the surface with light lacing

Smells malty, with hints of caramel

Tastes sweet caramel almost hints of chocolate very smooth the ABV is well hidden with small amounts of carbonation that is well suited for this one.

Very drinkable and enjoyable - I think I found another favorite

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Photo of Proteus93
4.08/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Honey brown pour, clean and clear, with some ruby red hues. A nice, creamy and sticky head about a finger and a half tall with a great stick.

S: A warm caramel and a peppery alcohol.

T + M: Alcohol stands out most noticably on this one. An interesting spiciness that I would almost compare with cinnamon without actually being cinnamon... it's just a taste reminiscent of such. A toffee-like sweetness and stickiness to it that complements the body.

D: A nice beer, more of a sipper, but quite tasty and enjoyable.

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Photo of SmithwicksNut
4.37/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Dark copper with white head. Head quickly disappears.

S: Rich, malty, sweet carmel smells

T: Rich full bodied beer, tasting the sweet carmel and maybe a hint of molasses.

M: Full bodied with smooth alcohol warmth

O: Rich, sweet, Malty. A very good beer.

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Photo of cswhitehorse
3.91/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The SkullSplitter poureda dark amber with a 2 finger foam head that looked like pancake batter. It had a little bit of lacing but not much.

The aroma was mostly malty of the caramel variety. The taste continued on with the main component of the smell. It really tasted like the epitome of a Scotch ale which should make it the standard. In the mouth it was creamy and smooth. It had a unique finish with a soft bitterness that lingered. Overall a pretty solid wee heavy.

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Photo of sethmeister
4.32/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into snifter.

One and a half finger cream colored head on a dark amber body.

Sweet rum, vanilla and tropical fruit (pineapple in particular) scents.

Flavors include vanilla, rum, crusty French bread. Some honey sweetness. A hint of green apple. Lightly smoky finish. Very slight alcohol warming.

Rich medium mouth.

Drinkabilty is excellent. ABV is hidden well.

One of my favorite Scotch Ales.

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Photo of Offa
4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

This is richly malty with strong, interesting flavours, if a bit too much on the heavy side. After I drank, this, I read that Michael Jackson said that it's like "fruitcake dunked in port," which seems very accurate.

Deep, deep red, it has a medium but dense tan head that slowly shrinks to a ring and leaves a little weak lace.

The aroma is rich and pungent with dark caramel, yeasty bread, dried fruit, stewed fresh fruit, and leaves.

The taste is similar. Rich, full-bodied and pungent, it has musty, sweet red wine, port, caramel, rich malt, dark dried fruit and fruitcake or plum pudding. It's a bit meaty, very fruity, sweetish with a strong alcoholic note and warmth before a finish with toasted brown bread. The palate is full and somewhat heavy without actually being oily.

Interesting, rich, and satisfying, this is nevertheless a beer to sip and enjoy slowly, not one to drink in quantity; even a full 12 oz is pushing it.

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Photo of shadow1961
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Skullsplitter Orkney Ale pours a good finger of creamy tan foam over an
opaque brown brew. Nose is typical Scotch Ale- dark fruit, coffee, peat,
and an alcohol tang. Flavor is dark toasty malts, with notes of molasses,
again, peat, and something sharp off the back, kind of like unsweetened
chocolate. Mouthfeel is remarkably light and crisp for such a flavorful
brew, but don't think about slamming it- at 8.5% alcohol by volume you
really need to slow down and savor it. Like a lot of good Scotch Ales, you
can almost taste the scotch it might have become if they distilled it. The
beer was named for a Viking name of Thorfinn Hausakluiff (Skullsplitter)
who lived in those parts about 1000AD. Tasty.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a slightly fogged amber. Nose is leafy and nutty. Kind of a berry edge to it as well. Flavor is nice and malty sweet. Great balance here. Smooth and even. Feel has a slick feel and a low carbonation. Very easy to drink and well worth drinking. An oustandibg beer.

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
Beer rating: 4.08 out of 5 with 2,226 ratings