The long awaited JDW, The Captain James Lang, in Dumbarton has opened and a a fine place it is too. The former Woolies has been transformed into a modern and comfortable pub with a long bar and eight handpumps (which is probably the most Dumbarton has ever seen) bringing cask ale back to the town. Seating is a mixture of high and low tables, booths (which are popular and commandeered by twos in each case, though they'd fit four comfortably) and a beer garden with spectacular view of Levengrove Park, the River Leven and Dumbarton Rock. It provides food up until eleven at night which brings the number of such pubs in Dumbarton doing so, up to.... err.... one. On a Monday night when I rolled up with my old Mum, it was doing a roaring trade.
Now Dumbarton and cask ale are complete strangers to each other. I ordered a pint of something from a Scottish Brewery (I can't remember which) and asked thr barman how the cask was doing. "Flying out" quoth he. My pint was disturbingly murky. Not London Murky perhaps, but too murky for my liking. It was also stale tasting and exchanged with a smile and apology for another pint of murk from a different handpump. Hmm. Third time lucky? Doom Bar it was. Clear looking, so a result? Not quite. It was sour and acetic. I ordered a gin and tonic and went back to my Mum, whose red wine was fine.
Meals next. A mixed result. Cremation of meat seems to be the order of the day. My burger was just about OK though hardly succulent. Mum's gammon steak had great potential. Potential as an offensive weapon, or as a stone age axe head. This was exchanged with apologies and later, unexpectedly, by a refund. I took the opportunity to have a chat with the charming and helpful Duty Manager who put it all down to teething problems. I don't doubt it, but it didn't make for a great experience. It will be all right here though. Staff were absolutely fantastic. Cheerful, helpful, doing their best and showing signs of being a good team. Mum enjoyed it too, though I think it was more the red wine, the presence of her son and reminiscences of Woolworths.
Don't worry Dumbarton. It will soon be sorted out, but please drink the cask before it goes off.
I didn't notice until my way out, as it is tucked away to one side, but a bonus is West Brewery St Mungo on sale. That'll be my tipple until the cask situation is sorted out and not a bad choice in any event.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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