SkullSplitter Ale

Cicero's, 6691 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-862-0009.

May 3, 2006 at 4:00 am
The expression "long in the tooth" took on a horrifying new meaning after we saw the X-rays. Roots of three evil wisdom teeth pierced deep into the gums, like a witch's bony finger punctuated with a talon. The dentist says they're too long to pull right there in the office. He recommends an oral surgeon.

"Maxillofacial" itself is a beautiful word, something a real estate mogul might name his firstborn son: Maxillofacial Wallace-LaRue. It actually refers to bones in the skull that connect to form the upper jaw; it's the fancy word that oral surgeons like to put on business cards. It's a shame that such a lovely combination of letters is linked with pain rather than pleasure. Unlikely: "Maxillofacial is taking me on his yacht in the Greek Isles!" Likely: "Holy God, they are going to bust open my maxillofacial like they're tearing up an old parking lot."

The appearance of someone's (or something's) mouth and teeth can reveal a lot about their diet, their habits and habitat, even their socioeconomic status. That's why dental records are used for identification and why lying to a dentist about, say, your flossing regime is worthless. They already know. The late comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, "I can't get into the flossing thing. People who smoke say, 'Man, you don't know how hard it is to stop smoking.' Yes, I do. It's as hard as it is to start flossing."

The night after scheduling the maxillofacial surgery, ordering a SkullSplitter Ale was the right thing to do. An immediate advantage of getting one is the badass way you feel just saying the name aloud. And there he is, right on the bottle: Thorfinn Hausakluif. SkullSpitter. He's standing on the shores of Orkney, an archipelago off of Scotland's northern coast. The label says he was the Seventh Viking Earl of Orkney about 1,000 years ago and here, he's clad in a cape with what appears to be a dashing (yet manly) white shawl around his neck, clutching a shield and spear. This is a guy who'd gladly extract his own Nordic wisdom teeth with nary a flinch and then move right along to cracking some skulls.

This classic Scotch ale is roughly the color of flat Diet Pepsi. It's made at the Orkney Brewery, which opened in 1988. At 8.5 percent alcohol, this beer is not messing around. It's a strong, clean finish. A Viking conquest. Heck, ol' SkullSplitter himself would be a fierce replacement for St. Apollonia, the patron saint of dentists and oral surgeons. She was a martyr who had every tooth violently ripped out of her jaw in Alexandria, Egypt, around 249 A.D. If SkullSplitter were in charge, he'd bless patients with courage, bravado and a potent brew. Unless it turns out the Viking Age was ultimately taken down in a fit of maxillofacial surgery gone awry. And in that case we're totally screwed.