Beer of the Week – Orkney Skull Splitter

Another weekend begins with a beery recommendation – every seven days throughout 2017 I’ll be shining a light on an unsung Scottish beer that you should track down if you haven’t tried it before, as it deserves to be in your drinking chalice of choice. From brand new beers to old classics, the series will feature a range of different beers from all corners of Scotland. For this eleventh instalment I’m taking a new look at a beer that does far better for it’s country overseas than at home.

I’ve been in several different bottle shops abroad and when I do it’s always a chance to check out what Scottish beer makes it overseas. Almost always there will be BrewDog, some Williams Bros maybe – and several bottles of this particular beer. It seems to have taken on the mantle of carrying the saltaire on its shoulders wherever someone thinks what Scottish beer should be. There aren’t many British labels that have the volume listed in ml and US fluid ounces, for one. I’m talking about the barley wine that puts in the air miles – Orkney Skull Splitter.

11. Skull Splitter (8.5%)
The Orkney Brewery, Orkney
Style: Scotch Ale/Barley Wine
330 ml bottle

Again, continuing the theme of this series, Skull Splitter straddles several beer styles – I’ve always thought of it as a barley wine (it definitely tastes like one) but Scotch Ale holds up with the malt bill and you could probably argue it’s an Old Ale as well. However you categorise it, the export market has been hugely kind to Skull Splitter – it is branded as a Scottish standard-bearer in the Viking fashion with Thorfinn Einarsson on the label looking like you made the worst mistake in history by knocking his pint over. But it’s a beer that really deserves attention on this side of the pond as well.

I’ve had plenty of these quasi-Scotch Wines recently (hey, someone has to) and Skull Splitter is the closest I’ve ever tasted to a liquidised dessert. You could pour this over sponge cake, it is pure rum n’ raisin. There’s figs in there too, and a touch of vanilla – and yet the one thing it lacks is that thunderous blow to match the name. That may come the next morning, but for an armchair fireside sipper after – or much better, during – dessert, Skull Splitter is a beer that deserves all of the attention it gets overseas in our own back yard.

Pick it up here:
At Orkney’s online shop (as individual 330ml bottles)

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve

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