Beer Review: Orkney Brewery’s Skull Splitter

Name: Skull Splitter
Brewing Company: The Orkney Brewery
Location: Orkney Islands, Scotland
Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy
ABV: 8.5%

From the beer’s description on Orkney Brewery’s Web site:

One of our strongest beers, named after Thorfinn Einarsson the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney

A rich fruity wine-like complexity on the palate includes fresh and dried fruits, warm exotic spice and light summer citrus fruits. Sophisticated, satiny smooth with a deceptively light character.

This is the second Scotch Ale I’ve reviewed here at the Tap Takeover and the first beer from the land which lends the name to the style, Scotland. This is as traditional as a Scotch Ale can get and after seeing a few reviews on untappd and the beer guy at my bottle shop give this big thumbs-up when he caught me glancing at the bottle, I knew I wanted to give it a try. One day a couple of weeks ago, my wife stopped at one of the many bottle shops on her way home from work and surprised me with a four pack of this one. My wife certainly knows what I like. She’s also a self-admitted sucker for a great label and beer name, as she said, “How do I not get you a beer named Skull Splitter?”

On to the beer…malty aromas come out of the bottle as the brownish/copper ale fills the glass. The beer looks a little cloudy and has a very pleasing aroma once it fills the pint glass and breathes. The beer starts strong and has a nice feel as you absorb the complex flavors.

Those complex flavors include hints of some kind of fruits, I’ve seen people mention figs and maybe plums or even raisins. I can’t disagree with any of those, I just know I like the taste. There’s a nice caramel/malty finish to the beer that is extremely tasty and smooth. As the flavors settle then dissipate, it really makes you want to take another three or four sips. Like some of the maltier ales the hop presence doesn’t really assert itself, which is fine by me.  Rather that caramel sweetness finishes with a slight tang/spice at the end that makes for a very nicely balanced beer.

The easy drinking taste of the beer; however, is in contrast to the relatively high ABV. This isn’t a beer you should throw back at 3 or 4 an hour. Maybe…maybe 2 an hour. The complex flavors really benefit from slowly drinking it, letting all the complexities roll around your palate.

The beer reminds me a bit of some of the great Dubbels I’ve had over the years for the malt and smoothness, but Skull Splitter‘s caramel flavors and hints of brown sugar set this one apart into a glass of its own pouring.

A perfect beer for a cool fall evening, one to enjoy after the meal is complete almost as a dessert beer but one that  also might pair well with a really earthy meal of steak and mashed potatoes or a hearty stew. You know, a meal like Thorfinn Einarsson, the  surly Viking leaning on the axe on the label, would enjoy.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Wee Bit of the Scotch (Level 2)

Whether it’s a Scotch Ale, Scottish Ale, or a traditional Wee Heavy, don your kilt and prepare yourself for a wee bit of Scotch.

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