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Skull Splitter | Orkney Brewery

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995 Reviews
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 995 | Ratings: 2,159
Photo of cubedbee
4.27/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep reddish purple brown with a thin finger of fizzy white head that quickly subsisides to the thinnest of rings. Nose is a big rich roasted caramel with a slight note of alcohol and maybe the slightest hops note. Taste is a wonderful smokey oak-like flavor with dashes of caramel and roasted malt. Spicey hop finish and just the slightest note of alcohol. Mouthfeel is thick, smooth, and creamy. This is an excellently flavorful strong ale, great for sipping.

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

Tasted this one under completely the wrong circumstances. Had spent 2 hours walking around Genoa (Italy) on a sunny Sunday afternoon trying to re-adjust my body clock after nearly 24 hours of travel from Australia. About 1.5 hours in I noticed that I was a bit thirsty and perhaps should stop to re-hydrate. Problem is Genoa is not the most lively place in the world on a Sunday afternoon, and it took me another 30 minutes to find somewhere, by which time I was very hot and bothered. I ended up stumbling upon (and into), of all things a Scottish themed bar. After a few false starts (my Italian is non-existant) I managed to get a menu out of the waitress, and lo and behold at the top of the menu was the legendary Skullsplitter. I was not going to miss this opportunity so I ordered one immediately.

Sadly, it arrived with a Tennents Lager glass, which looked like it had spent most of its life in a dishwasher. Also, the label indicated it was right on its use by date. This aside, poured deep garnet with a fairly good light brown tightly packed head. Aroma was butterscotch, caramel and just the faintest whiff of hops. These aromas also came out in the flavour with a slightly bitter finish preventing them from being cloying. The 8.5% ABV was only very subtly noticable. Mouth was reasonably soft and creamy, carbonation was about right. This is a definitely a beer for a cold winters night, not to cool down after a long overheated march. Note to self, taste it again in the right circumstances.

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Photo of mynie
3.8/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark ruby. Translucent. Nice pinkie-finger head that sticks around for days.

Zippy smell of Belgian fruit--raisins and plums--along with alcohol and hints of chocolate. I initially gave this a 3.5 but it gained complexity as it warmed up.

Tastes like a combination of a smoke ale with big meaty oak and the alcohol and fruit zip of a dubble. Strange, to say the least. Complex and flavorful, but not that great a combination.

I don't know what to make of this here beer. It's worth a try, I guess, but I'm really underwhelmed.

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Photo of Gaisgeil
3.77/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A well balanced and smooth malty scotch ale.

Pours a hazy medium brown in color with little head to speak of. Nose is quite nice, golden raisins, burnt sugars, very malty. Taste is a bit subdued and understated, similar to what is in the nose, but the flavors meld almost seamlessly making it a bit difficult to seperate them from one another. Mouthfeel is a bit thin. Overall I'd say there are much better scotch ales but this is a solid classic offering.


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

(Served in an American pint glass)

A- This beer pours a deep auburn brown with a thin creamy light tan head and a gentle carbonation.

S-The aroma of caramel and toasted malts with some fresh grain and light burnt sugar notes.

T- A rich slightly sweet toasted malt flavor if complex with a finish of faint hop bitterness that hangs on the tongue. Very smooth and no alcohol flavor.

M- This has a medium mouthfeel with a light fizziness to it. No astringency or alcohol warmth.

D-This beer lives up to its name. It has a great malt base but no notes of alcohol. It is complex but not overpowering with the malt and a nice hop finish that is faint but helps to support the malt.

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Photo of mrasskicktastic
3.38/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - A dark clear purplish red. Small half finger head that leaves a wee scattered ring of lace.

Smell - Syrupy sweet molassess malt, a bit of dates and diacetyl underneath. It is sugary sweet smelling to the point of being almost gross (but not quite). I just hope the taste isn't this sweet.

Taste - Not nearly as sweet as the odor lead me to believe, but sweet still.. My first thoughts are of smoke. A slightly sweet thick roasted barley malt taste dominates, chicory and dates stand out in my mind. It is extremely bitter, but not a familiar hops bitterness, not quite a coffee bitterness either - I can't pin point it. I think the smokey character meshes with a coffee bitterness to skew my view. A very slight metallic note is underneath, but with this bitter of a flavor, a faint metal taste actually helps a little. Alcohol is detectable, but not strongly.

Mouthfeel - There are two prominent aspects to the mouthfeel - one I like, one I hate. It is a thick viscous brew, I like that. Its bitter aftertaste leaves a gummy feel in my mouth, as you guessed, I don't like that at all. This gummy feeling only gets worse and turns into a powerful parching.

Drinkability - After a big glass of water I could definitely drink another, its taste is interesting and has a lot of character that makes it a brew worth examining. It is very rare that I say this about a strong and sweet beer, but 11.2 oz just isn't enough to assess it fully. Since It is so powerfully drying, I am docking it. All and all a great beer I will want to have another time.

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Photo of WesWes
4.45/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a dark ruby red color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is great. It has a rich and creamy malt scent that boasts of crystal and roasted malts. It's sweet and toastey and slightly warming. The taste is great also. It has a very smooth, malty flavor that boasts of crystal, roasted, and peated malts. It has a nice smokey character that mellows the elevated abv. . The mouthfeel is good. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is an awesome beer. I love everything about it. One of the top wee heavy beers out there.

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Photo of bruachan
4.07/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

at the inimitable brickskellar

deep dark amber/brown with a coating head that fizzles from the alcohol. slight diacetyl nose with brown sugar. more brown sugar and caramel with a roastednuttiness. i could taste the alcohol, but not many 8.5% brews are able to hide it; whatever heat is masked compensated by huge maltiness. virtually undetectable hops, but the malt sweetness isn't overwhelming, so they must be doing their job

another couple of these and someone's skull would have been split (exactly who no one will know)

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

Presentation: Drank from an 11.2 oz bottle, poured into Watou chalice.

Appearance: Dark red, with thin white head.

Smell: Strong scotch ale aroma, kind of old-world-ale bouquet.

Taste: This tastes on the money for a scotch ale.

Notes: Easily available from several locations in Columbus. I recommend it to scotch ale drinkers.

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Photo of charlesw
3.42/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Well, it's beer, you know? A nice dark color, little head, huge malty nose and mouth, no hops to speak of, not much of an aftertaste. Still... I dunno, I get a big raisin flavor out of it and it seems that someone may have done at least part of the mash at a temp that was a wee bit high - in the middle of the mouth there's an interesting dry rasp across the tongue. It's a bit overpowering in general - I mean, it'd be hard for me, with this much flavor going on, to drink more than one...

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Photo of smcolw
3.73/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark honey/melted sugar color; light will penetrate clearly. Decent beige head leaving layered lace on the glass.

Strong sweet caramels and brown sugar show up in the smell. There's a touch of plastic present, but it's very much in the background.

An overwhelmingly sweet beer on the initial taste. There is a very surprising hop finish in the swallow. Very rich and full-bodied, it also has a high level of carbonation. It's been a while since I've had a real Scotch Ale; this one seems a wee bit heavier than most I've tried (pun intended).

This beer is growing on me with each sip. My initial reaction was, whoa, way too much residual sugar. But I like how the hop catches up with the beer. Perhaps it's the 8.5% alcohol content (which is quite muted by the flavors), but more likely, it's the nice balance in the aftertaste.

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Photo of JohnnyDuvel
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

For those who like an all-malt type of beer, you can't go wrong here. A terrific exaple of the Scottish ale-wee heavy style. As good as the Belhaven or the Alesmith (two beers I love). This is SO malty! Warming and smooth, good for what ails you! I had this before, but must have forgot to review it. Just arrived in a terrific local specialty store (thanks, Micro man!).

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

Pours dark caramel plus brown with off- white head Smells of sweet raiseny smoky things. Tastes a little sweet with roast and smoked malts, but nicely restrained. Nicely restrained hops as well. Complex malt flavors. Really nicely well done. Feels smooth and slick in the mouth with slight alcohol burn. I have to be careful how man of these I drink, because damn... it would be easy to have more than a few....

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Photo of JMazzic
3.79/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is my first review, so please forgive the lack of complexity. Great looking bottle featuring Thorfinn Hausakluif(I'm assuming). Bought from BevMo in Elk Grove.

Appearance - Poured dark amber into a Maudite Tulip glass. About a 1/2" head, light carbonation. Head quickly dissipated.

Smell - Aroma was not real strong. Picked up a sweetness, brown sugar/molasses? Slight fruity smell, maybe raisin. Very appetizing.

Taste - Nice light sweetness. Pretty smooth, considering the ABV. Malty, only slight hop to it. Raisins again, a bit of chocolate after it warmed up some. Warming to the throat, very tasty.

Mouthful - Not too thick at first. Then it fills out to a rich creaminess.

Drinkability - Very Smooth. The alcohol is well hidden. Great taste, can be downed quickly if not careful. That said, this should be sipped and enjoyed. Very good, will drink again

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

Hearing that I was a fan of woody beers and smoky scotches, this one was recommended to me by beer manager Jon Hartlage of Smart Buy Wines in Fort Lee, NJ. Thanks a ton, Jon!

Served in a pint glass at recommended temperature.

A - Pours a clear, deep amber color with crimson highlights and an explosive tan head made of medium sized bubbles and a pillowy, tiny bubbled top. The head subsides to 1/4'' after a minute or two, and the lacing remains intact all the way down the glass.

S - Aggressive malty nose with medium bodied hoppiness, roasted nuttiness, and light raisiny brown sugar notes. Only faint hints of the alcohol contained within.

T - Smoked, peaty malts hit you right off the bat - somewhat surprisingly since I did not get this at all in the nose. Some of the roasted malt sweetness comes through in the middle and toward the swallow. The finish is laced with spicy hops and is quite dry and vinous (in the vein of a dry sherry). There is a warm alcohol afterglow which reminds you that this beer is well fortified, despite the fact that the ABV is masterfully disguised. Very complex.

M - Initially watery, but not thin. Opens up ever so gently to become airily creamy on the palette. The swallow is fast and easy. Wonderful!

D - The well disguised alcohol coupled with the very wide taste profile on this one makes it disturbingly easy to quaff (and ponder) despite the big ABV. Delicious!

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Photo of karst
4.24/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown chestnut with ruby highlights and a creamy 1-2 finger head lacing the sides of a New Belgium glass. The head evolves into a thick cream colored halo ring.

Smoke/ peat malts, caramel and toffee.

Taste is similar to aroma - Caramel malts, toffee, dark fruits and alcohol for a slight dry finish.

Mouthfeel is slick.

Has well hidden 8.5% ABV Wee Heavy. Most drinkable.

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Photo of abcsofbeer
3.88/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This one was poured from an 11.2 ounce greenish brown bottle. The nordic dude on the label is pretty cool. Pours a clear, bubbly, Coca Cola color with light amber shades on the fringes. The head is tan colored, bubbly, but not thick. There is no lace until you get to the bottom of the glass even though the head sticks around nicely.

The nose is buttery, fruity and semi-sweet smelling.

The taste is fruity and malty with breaks of alcohohic flavor. I think the aftertaste was somewhat hoppy, and, mildly salty (a new one). It finishes with more alcohol in the bottom of the glass. I like the scotch ale. It's good.

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

Cask conditioned at the 32nd Cambridge Beer Festival, gravity dispense. Dark reddish brown colour. Complex aroma of dark fruits, spices and oak, various woodwork, some chocolate. Flavour is spicy, oaky, malty, chocolate, there’s vinous qualities (old sherry, marsala). Nutty / dusty hops finish. A great beer!

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Photo of Fish113d
4.03/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

served into a pint glass, from a refrigerated bottle, it pours a chestnut brown color, a bit hazy, with a rather huge head, due to a pretty aggressive pour. The head is a milky off-white color that begins to settle a bit with some slow, nice cascading. Some slight yeast remains at the bottom of the bottle as well.

Aroma is mostly of some caramel malts, maybe some oak (dryness), and some nice hops. Nothing overpowering, but decent overall.

Taste is of some smoke flavors off the start along with the nut brown malts and sweetened with caramel a bit, with some decent alcohol burn, and a hit of hops then yeast to finish it. Reminds me a lot of drinking somethign aged in bourbon barrels maybe. Nice overall flavor.

Feel is nice and smooth. Carbonation is not ridiculous, and the alcohol helps to balance out the smootness of it. Rather easy to drink for a medium-bodied brew.

Overall, one i had tried a few years back due to the bottle being cool looking, but one I have tried again due to remembering that I rather enjoyed it!

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Photo of bigbubba
3.37/5  rDev -17%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This is a clear, brown beer with a slight redness. The head is a very light tan, about 1/2" tall. It smells very good. There is a sweet malty aroma with a little vanilla. The taste is good but nothing special. I expected more flavor, it seems a little watered down. There is an odd flavor, this might be an old bottle. The mouthfel is a bit too thin.

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Photo of Chadbrew
4.7/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This ale doesn't pour so much as ooze out of the bottle a deep red color with a half inch of fluffy dirty colored head. There is beautiful lacing left along the sides of the goblet as I swirl it around.

The first thing I smell is alcohol and butterscotch, maybe some raisins soaked in rum. Very powerful malt smell with light hops not what I expected considering the head brewer at Orkney calls this a barleywine, a style I am used to being highly hopped at all levels.

Taste - There's the hops! Bitter up-front that makes the tip of my tongue kind of numb-like. There are subtleties of banana and figs and much like the smell there is some butterscotch and alcohol. There is a lot of malt in the finish which I'm not really used to in a beer this big.

Mouth - Big full body and a blast of really fine carbonation followed by an ultra clean finish.

Drinkability - A very rich beer that like its namesake is not to be reckoned with lightly. It's as high in flavor and character as it is in alcohol. Loved it and will be purchasing more.

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Photo of deejaydan
4.68/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a beautiful deep ruby with tiny bubbles running through it. Nice compact sustaining head with good lacing. Toffee-molasses aroma which is lovely. Flavor is rich carmel-chocolate malt. Slightly sweet, hop presence is restrained if not nil. Mouthfeel could be a touch thicker. Perhaps a tad less carbonation too.
A good beer, but at $13 a 4 pack, not an everyday drinker. A great special occasion beer.

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Photo of cncbofh
4.68/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a swamp-like brown.

Took a little while for the smells to really come out... when they did they were rich with figs, burning wood, some fruit and no noticable hops.

Taste was thick with caramel malts. Sweet and fruity with a deep earthy and leafy background. Where is that alcohol hiding? Amazing! Very complex and gets better as it warms.

Due to the amazing taste, no noticeable alcohol and creamy smooth carbonation, this beer gets a 5 for mouthfeel and drinkability. Incredible.

Goes well with some aged Irish cheddar and rye crackers.

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Photo of whynot44
4.18/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Full bodied, nice clear dark garnet color with a moderate creamy off-white head. Without the head, this would look a lot like 10w/20 motor oil.

The aroma is sweet caramel malt, slightly vinous.

The taste is also overwhelmingly malty with a rich caramel, spicy, raisin/fig tone. The finish is sticky sweet with a piney, peaty aftertaste that lingers with a hint of smoke. A beer for serious malt lovers and cool weather.

Try this as an after dinner drink during the holidays.

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Photo of ken3c
3.88/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reddish brown with a good one finger head. Many bubbles rise continuously to feed a solid layer of foam throughout the beer.

Dark malt smell with a strong sense of smoke. Some hops as well.

Sweet and smoky. A little carmel and melon. A slightly bitter hops aftertaste.

Medium-heavy body with a foamy feel.

The aroma put me off a little but I love a good BBQ and this beer is like a good BBQ.

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Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery
4.06 out of 5 based on 2,159 ratings.
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