Oh boy. I've been waiting to taste this one off my new handpump for a couple days now and I couldn't bear the wait any longer - had my first pint yesterday and I've kept going back for second and third pints since. If you couldn't tell, this beer was brewed with a batch of No. 1 invert syrup that I made not too long ago. I intentionally kept the recipe pretty simple to see how much flavor the invert syrup would provide and am glad I did so. The result is way better than I expected. I said I was done brewing bitters for a while, but I have a pack of wy1187 that needs a home and an itching to make another batch of invert. Maybe do the same recipe but with some No. 2 Invert? Yeah, I know...
The Golden Toad: English Special Bitter
Appearance – From the handpump this pours a beautiful golden-copper color with a low white head that slowly fades to a small ring, leaving some lacing. Steady stream of small bubbles float to the top, low carbonation.
Smell – Very nice aroma on this one. First sniff is toasted, biscuity grain and typically fruity English yeast esters with just a hint of butterscotch. The floral EKG hops leave their mark with a light orange-marmalade character, though don't interfere with malt aromas. Some medium caramel notes are evident, as well as some sweetness from the invert syrup. What's best though is a lovely sweet, almost vanilla like aroma that reminds me of ladyfinger cookies - must be from the invert.
Taste – Follows suit with the aroma. Lots of wonderful light caramel and bready/biscuity malt flavors that mix well with the English yeast character. The invert syrup addition is more noticeable in the flavor, as it leaves a slightly fruity, residual sweetness. More landyfinger cookie character. Bitterness is about perfect for this beer, just enough to balance the sweetness but still soft enough to not get in the way of the malt. Some EKG hop flavor at the end. Reminds me a lot of the cask bitters I had in the UK; young, complex, full flavored with all the nuances that a cask provides. Damn close to perfect for my tastes.
Mouthfeel – Low carbonation and creamy. The beer finishes dry, though the invert gives it just enough body to keep it from being too dry.
Drinkability & Notes – I was a little leery of trying this one so young - it's only been in the cask for 7 days and it was brewed on 8 March - but the beer as it sits is nearly perfect. One of my top three favorite special bitters I have brewed so far, it is really amazing how much difference the homemade invert syrup really makes. (My days of using the commerical product are over; Lyles Golden Syrup and the bakery supply No.1 Invert don't hold a candle to the homemade stuff). Overall, this beer drinks like a 3% ordinary bitter but has all the flavor and complexity that you might find in a summer variety ESB. As styles go, it probably doesn't have enough bitterness to be the poster child of a "BJCP" special bitter, though I still like this one much more than the special bitter I entered into the NHC.
O.G: 1.048, F.G: 1.008, 5.2% ABV, 35 IBU, Wyeast 1968 Fuller's ESB
19 minutes ago