Sinclair Breweries Limited is the parent company for Orkney and Atlas ales. Orkney Brewery was founded in March 1988 by Roger White at the old schoolhouse in Sandwick, Orkney, Scotland. Atlas was formed in 2002 by Neill Cotton and merged with Orkney in 2004 under the name Highland & Islands Breweries. Highland & Islands was taken over by Sinclair Breweries in 2006.
History and development
In June 2004, the Orkney Brewery was acquired from its retiring founder by the shareholders of Atlas Brewery to form Highlands and Islands Breweries. Neill Cotton, founder of Atlas Brewery, was Managing Director of Highlands and Islands and drove a series of changes at The Orkney Brewery, including a rebranding and the launch of a very interesting lager. In summer 2006, the company was bought by Sinclair Breweries Ltd.
The Orkney brewery produces cask ale and filtered beer in bottles, and since October 2005, a lager. Dark Island a rich, fruity, vinous dark ale, is the biggest seller. Dark Island has won Champion Beer of Scotland on several occasions. Red MacGregor, a 4% bitter has won the World Cask Beer Gold Medal (BIIA 2001). The same name is used for a 5% premium bitter available filtered in the bottle.
Atlas Brewery was originally based in Kinlochleven and situated in a category B listed former aluminium smelting facility. It later closed in 2010 with operations relocated to Orkney. Among its beers are Nimbus Pale Ale, Latitude Pilsner, and Three Sisters Scotch Ale which are available on tap and in bottles throughout Lochaber and Scotland. They also produce a number of seasonal beers.
Skull Splitter is a 8.5% abv wee heavy  Skull Splitter won the award of Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2001 at CAMRA's national winter celebration of beer. Skull Splitter takes its name after Torfinn Hausakljuv who was nicknamed "Skullsplitter". Hausakluif was the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney sometime around 950 AD.
Skull Splitter was in the centre of some controversy over its name. The Portman Group, which is the alcohol watchdog group, carried out an investigation based on complaints that the ale had an "aggressive theme". The Portman Group decided on 23 December 2008 not to uphold the complaint after the brewery launched a strong campaign to save this 20-year-old beer, informing the Group of the beer's namesake.
The model for the Skull Splitter label was photographer Michael Hockney, who lived in Quoyloo. Hockney was asked by Roger White if he could take a shot for a small promotional poster. A member of Orkney Islands Council, who was a Shetlander, offered his full Viking regalia and himself to provide a suitable Skullsplitter image. At the last minute, the council member decided it was something that an elected official should maybe not do, but insisted White borrow the costume. Hockney arrived at Broch of Gurness to meet White and the model, and was told of the last minute change. White suggested Hockney looked suitably Viking-like and that perhaps he should wear the costume. The Fuji 6x9 camera was set up and Hockney struggled to get his size 10 feet into size 7 deerskins. Roger White also brought his 35mm camera and it was, in fact, White's camera that took the shot.
- "Sinclair Breweries". www.sinclairbreweries.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
- "Orkney Brewery". www.quaffale.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
- "Atlas Brewery". www.quaffale.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
- "Highland & Islands Breweries Ltd". www.quaffale.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
- SkullSplitter at Legends Ltd.
- Skull Splitter on the BBC
- News of the decision on SkullSplitter