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Beer Review:
Orkney, OKI, Scotland, UK
By: George Zhen

July 1, 2005

As covered in our review of The Red MacGregor, Orkney Brewing is a fairly new brewing company located in the Orkney Islands of Scotland that draws on the region's rich brewing heritage to produce some of the most dangerously drinkable beers we've had. The crown jewel among these beers is the formidably named Skullsplitter.

At 8.5% ABV, one would get the idea that Skullsplitter is named for its collective alcoholic effect on the drinker. Although this is a highly effective brew in that arena, Skullsplitter is in fact named for the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney, Thorfinn Hausakluif, who lived and ruled around 950 A.D. The Viking tradition of brewing ales wasn't lost on the region, and much of that heritage has been crafted into the strong ale that takes Thorfinn Hausakluif's name.

When opened and poured, the richness of this beer is immediately acknowledged. The color is a darkish cherry mocha crested with a respectable foam that shares some of these same hues. Light can make it through the glass, but it is not a light beer by any means.

The taste of this beer has presented this reviewer with his greatest challenge. Perhaps it is the balance that leans towards the malt side, but there is something else in there that makes it one of the most complex beers yet consumed. Strong, bold, yet light.

Perhaps it is this last quality, the lightness upon palate and belly, that presents the drinker with his or her greatest challenge: Not to fall under Skullsplitter's powerful spell. One will find themselves one minute discerning the wonderfully complex taste and flavor of this brew only to drink another. Then another. Then the 8.5% catches you and before you know it - pow! Your skull has been split!

Skullsplitter comes in a 4-pack here in the States, and that can be problematic if splitting skulls with a friend. A six would be more satisfying. That small criticism aside, it must be said that this beer surly meets the noble standards of the Viking Earl it is named for, and greatly exceeds the far lesser standards of this reviewer.

Beer Tasting Scorecard
Attribute Score
Head 4
Color 5
Taste 5
Flavor 5
Effect 4
Overall Score 4.6

Thanks to Legends Limited for providing some great information on Orkney Brewing on their website which can be found at

For more information on Skullsplitter, visit their website at

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