I'm currently in Dumbarton looking after my ailing Mum to give my sister a break and to spend a little time with my Mum while I still can. It has snowed here rather a lot. In fact as much snow as I can recall in this old town, but then again, I haven't spent that much time in it recently.
Of course, man does not live by copious cups of tea alone - well this one doesn't - and Thursday, which was pretty bad saw my Dumbarton family gave me a couple of hours off. Despite intermittent heavy snow and bright sunshine, I fancied a pint. My sister and niece had already advised that they observed, as they walked to Mum's, that all the pubs apart from the local Wetherspoons were shut. This though was fine by me as I wasn't after mass produced lager. The pavements were more or less out of bounds for two reasons. Firstly around they were coated by two feet of snow and secondly, my rather inappropriate footwear. I had anticipated the cold and had a heavy coat, but not the snow. "It never snows much in Dumbarton" was my faulty assessment as I left Middleton. So along with other brave souls, I trudged along the main road. Not a great problem as apart from a few four wheel drive cars, there was no traffic.
It didn't take me more than 15 minutes to get into town. Indeed the first two pubs - the biggest apart from JDW - were firmly shuttered. All businesses and shops seemed to be too. Now there are a couple more smaller pubs along the High St, but I wasn't checking them out. The Captain James Lang was open and fairly busy. Wetherspoon has its critics, but it was open when other weren't and was doing good business in tea, coffee, meals and the odd pint too. My pints of Loch Lomond Southern Summit got a solid 3 as I assessed them for WhatPub and CAMRA's National Beer Scoring System. As I sat I observed. My fellow Dumbartonians seemed well attired in the footwear department. I gazed enviously at the various walking shoes, boots and wellies. My shoes were matted with snow and looked wet, but hadn't let any moisture in - Clarks doncha know, so I wasn't complaining, but was well aware that I looked dressed for rather better weather.
After a couple of pints of Southern Summit, I noticed the pub had newly installed BrewDog's Punk IPA, so I had a half. Underneath the carbonic acid ridden presentation is a rather decent beer trying to get out. It was hugely over gassed and very cold, but as it warmed up and revealed its layers of flavour, I reflected that despite all that is said about "craft" beer, in a lot of cases it still suffers from exactly the same problems that has always plagued it. That is excess CO2 and very low temperature. For sipping beer this might be fine, but for swigging beer, for this observer at least, it just doesn't cut it. Better gas control is a must - see this from Will Hawkes. He is spot on.
Anyway one thing I do notice in the Captain James Lang is that there is a slow and creeping uptake on cask. In fairness, the West of Scotland is a hard nut to crack, but I get the impression that they are doing their best here. Not enough to not try and get away with duff pints now and again, but better. I keep saying the last per
son who should discover a bad pint is the customer.
Beer quality should be continually checked. If it isn't, they simply aren't doing it right.
Hoping to escape to Glasgow later on. The CJL has lost its charms. I need pastures new. No trains but there are buses and I haven't been on a bus from Dumbarton to Glasgow for over 50 years. Regretfully, not free despite my advancing years. A footnote about Southern Summit and Joker IPA, which I have had some of on cask recently. Atren't they a bit sweet?
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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