Skull Splitter

Scottish people enjoy booze. There, I’ve said it. Scotch ale, as a style, certainly reflects this fact. Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewing is a solid representative of this moderately heavy, malty, rich, and boozy lineage. At 8.5% ABV, it’s certainly neither a Belgian nor a truly Big Beer, but it packs a wallop, hence its name.

As the weather turns warmer, I’m left watching my beloved Mets come back to earth from their hot start, and I need a beer to shepherd me through their west coast road trip. Also, there is a large pile of dishes from the party we just had with our neighbors. Perusing the beers my buddy left in the fridge, I find a little gem of joy to counteract my baseball-induced sorrow. So, for me, that wallop is welcome.

Actually, the name Skull Splitter comes from an Orcadian hero: Thorfinn Torf-Einarsson (Thorfinn Hausakliuuf), the seventh earl of Orkney. “Hasuakliuuf” translates from Old Norse as “Skull-Splitter.” That’s a pretty bad-ass honorific, and gives this beer some big shoes to fill. While it doesn’t carve a path of destruction through dark-ages era Scotland, it certainly feels like a worthy Viking brew, especially when you go back for round two. And three. And four. And…well, you get the picture.

Let’s take a second to talk about Scotch Ales. “Scotch Ale” is a 19th Century term given to ales brewed in Scotland (duh), and, as ales are wide-ranging and hard to pin down, Scotch Ales are a varied breed. Some are only strong by American macro-brew standards, running 5.5%-6.5%. However, others tend to be a bit heavier – in fact, an alternative name for the style is “Wee Heavy,” which, I’m sure we can all agree, is just a better name than “Scotch Ale.” Weaker, paler Scotch Ales are, generally, about as exciting as a big ol’ plate of room temperature noodles, but their bigger, badder brothers can be truly exceptional.

A closer look at the rather intimidating label
A closer look at the rather intimidating label

So then, Skull Splitter is a Wee Heavy named after an Orcish warlord from the 10th Century. As such, it does its job very well. It has a nice dark amber color and smells of rich malts and caramel. Its taste is complex and rich, if a bit alcohol-forward; when people complain about this beer, that’s their issue – the booze. However, I view this as a feature, not a flaw. You’re drinking a beer, goddamn it, not having a damned juice-box. You want to taste the alcohol so you know it’s there, doing its job.

There are other versions of Scotch Ale that I prefer, truth be told (Oskar Blues’s Old Chub, anyone?), but this one is light enough in texture and viscosity that you can go back to the well a few times, which is important, as you watch your team lose at baseball and avoid doing the dishes from the barbecue that just ended.

Skoal.

Dean DeFalco

Creator of Websites, editor of content, wearer of vests. This man is said to be "The Jack of All Trades".  Dean has his hands in most parts of the website one way or another. The original incarnation of Geekade, "G33k Life", was Dean's brainchild. While Dean can be found on a number of shows like when he was the former co-host of the Stone Age Gamer Podcast or the current host Vest and Friends or talking about video games on YouTube and Twitch, he is the guy behind the scenes making sure that the site does everything it's supposed to every one else can do their job. There's not a problem he can't solve.....or at least punch and scream at until it doesn't exist anymore.

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