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Is this craft beer’s biggest troll?

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At this point, Ding—the nickname of an Atlanta-based beer blogger—has probably been called a “troll” more times than he can remember. For the casual observer, the term seems fitting. After all, it’s not uncommon to see statements like this populate the blogger’s Twitter feed:

When I first started following Ding on Twitter (@D_I_N_G) I too filed him away in the “troll” category. After all, this was a guy I remembered, deservedly or not, as one of BeerAdvocate’s biggest contrarian users—that is, before the website permanently banned him in 2011 (his account of the incident is well-documented on his own site DingsBeerBlog.com). On Twitter, his tweets often seemed dismissive, argumentative, and sometimes both. Was this Englishman living in Georgia a legitimate troll—someone who derails conversation for the lolz—or simply a guy with unwavering viewpoints on beer?

If you haven’t encountered Ding before, you’re likely to find him where session beer and cask ale are the center of conversation (you could also place a solid bet on running into him during an online discussion about American craft beer culture as well). Moths to a flame.

To bring you up to speed, here are his stances on the topics:

Session beer: Anything above 4% ABV is not session beer.
Cask ale: Casks are for real ale, not infusing IPAs with jalapenos.
American craft beer culture: There really isn’t any, at least not anything good.

What first drew me to follow Ding on Twitter wasn’t so much his opinion, but the fervor in which he reinforced it, often unsolicited. It got to the point where I’d click on a brewery’s session beer tweet just to see if he responded. It wasn’t uncommon to find something like this:

After reading his tweets over the last couple of years, he hasn’t wavered—whether or not you agree with him, his persistence is admirable. Breweries and beer bloggers in the crosshairs usually respond with silence or positive acknowledgement. Occasionally the exchange derails into a small Twitter war.

His tweets regarding craft beer’s approach to cask ales are also just as frequent. Here’s a recent comment about Sweetwater’s Brew Your Cask Off festival, which features cask beer with specialty ingredients.

Naturally, he’s been called both a “troll” and a “curmudgeon”—the latter he seems more willing to accept, or play up. Blog posts like “Hopslam—It’s an annual annoyance but for a new reason this year” add to the persona.

His particular brand of straight-forward pessimism and disapproval sets him apart from most beer bloggers, and has earned him a level of notoriety in the beer world: Earlier this year, a local brewpub invited him in to brew a “real” session beer playfully called Ding the English Bitter. That was the good. The bad? When a recent post on women in craft beer was met with such disdain and vitriol in the comments, he temporarily deleted the entire thing.

He’s a polarizing character, and someone who I suspected was largely misunderstood. So, I reached out to him last week for a quick email Q&A to find out what makes him tick. Here’s what he had to say:

[edited for style and format]

How do you generally receive feedback on Twitter and blogs?

“Do you mean what’s my reaction to the feedback? If so, I’m always glad to receive it as long as it’s civil.”

Do you feel like you’re making a positive impact when it comes to promotion of real session beer and cask ales?

“Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not really my concern. I see myself as an educator as opposed to an advocate. I’m not trying to get more session beer and cask ale in the USA, I’m just trying to educate people about what proper session beer and cask ale is! I’m not interested in America becoming a new haven for cask and session ale, if I want that, then I’ll go home. I think this is where I am misunderstood; trying to encourage cask ale and session beer in the USA is not my goal—telling people what they should be doing, is.”

What motivates or drives you to be an active contributor in the online beer community? Do you have an end goal in mind for your activism?

“As I have said above, education. I have no agenda other than getting people to understand what real ale and session beer actually is. I’m not a typical ‘activist’ in that regard, I see myself as a conduit for information and an educator. There’s no goal here for me, because I don’t believe America can ever give me what I want, so it’s certainly not my goal to attempt to convert the country to something that it can never be.”

Do you think other bloggers often misunderstand you or your position on topics like session, cask and craft beer culture? If so, where do you think that misunderstanding originates?

“Well if you mean, ‘are they ignorant on session beer and real ale’, then yes, but that’s the fault of the brewers, and the hype, and BS that they keep peddling. This is why it’s so important for me to correct people at every opportunity. If breweries continue to abuse cask ale by treating as a Randall, and mislabel session beer, then the ignorance gets perpetuated—I can’t live with that. My biggest fault is also my strongest suit—I’m honest, frank, and don’t pull my punches. That can seem abrasive online, but in person there is pretty much a universal feeling that I am nowhere near as unpleasant as my virtual persona might suggest—quite a lot of people even like me! Either way, that’s just me, and I can only be ‘who I am’. I care about some things passionately, and it comes through. I make no apologies. One thing that does bother me though is being labeled a fraud or a troll—I am not. I never say things ‘for effect’, and I believe all that I type.”

Beer troll, curmudgeon or simply a guy trying to preserve English beer tradition? That’s not my call. But after browsing his Twitter feed and blog, I’m sure you’ll come to a conclusion of your own.

 

Author
Chris Staten is DRAFT’s beer editor. Follow him on Twitter at @DRAFTbeereditor and email him at chris.staten@draftmag.com.

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10 Comments

  • Hipster Brewfus (@HipsterBrewfus) says:

    Oh fuck this guy. Seriously. The craft beer community would be better if this guy choked on a real cask session ale.

  • Marc Rea says:

    I’ve been following DING since his before his dismissal from BA in 2011. I don’t always agree with him, but he makes valid arguments towards education. Too much in the current beer state is about HYPE…and less about just quality beer. His responses to criticism are always well thought out and under control, I’ve yet to see him personally attack anyone (unlike most people that don’t like him, read above). If you’re in the business of making beer, or creating anything the least bit artistic, toughen up your jaw and get ready for a punch, cause not everyone is going to like it.

  • Chad Polenz says:

    You got it wrong, Hipster Brewfus is the biggest troll in craft beer!

  • Stuart Arnold says:

    Adrian is most definitely not a troll. I get why this label may be tagged to him but it’s incorrect. He’s opinionated and passionate, yes.

    I like opinionated people that have a reasonable argument to back up their stance. Ding ALWAYS has that. People may not agree with his reasoning but that doesn’t make him a Troll.

    Being from ‘Old School’ England I’m passionate about session and cask ale and English beer culture too. I’ve even had a disagreement with him over a particular article on the subject matter but I never received Troll like responses from him.

    I’ve met Ding on a couple of occasions and have introduced him to brewery owners and beer fanatics in my area that have interacted with him online. Without fail they all left with a positive opinion of him and want to know when he’s next in the area.

    He’s a genuine person that’s extremely like-able in real life. If you get the chance you should meet him and write up a real article about him and his feelings.

    Just my personal take.

    Merry Christmas,

    Stu

  • dale says:

    He has some decent points, but he comes off as an obnoxious tool. My biggest gripe is his bashing of American beer culture. If he’s unhappy in this country, he should return to his own.

  • Rufus Horn says:

    I went to school with Ding and looks like a troll…

    Seriously- he does know his beer though.

    As for you Dale- an American referring to someone as an “obnoxious tool”- have you any idea how your nation is viewed by the rest of the world?

    We have a saying in Britain about “The pot calling the kettle black.” If you don’t know what that means, you can alwafs google it…

  • Alex Hall says:

    Ding is the warrior taking forward the UK cask beer stance where traditional, and I most certainly generally approve – though in my opinion there is sometimes room for looking outside of the norm, otherwise nothing will ever change for the better. ~Alex Hall

  • Hipster Brewfus (@HipsterBrewfus) says:

    And fuck Chad, too. I also hope he chokes on a free beer, before he has the chance to bitch about the generosity displayed.

  • nick s says:

    Ding’s main argument is simply that terms have meanings, and that if you dilute or adulterate the term, you’re misleading yourself. If American brewers are going to offer “easy-drinking, all-day” beer at 6.5% and treat casks primarily as ageing vessels, then they need to come up with different terms instead of glomming onto ones associated with British practices.

    And if you don’t think that there’s a ‘triple-cheese stuffed barrel-aged imperial’ bubble right now in American brewing, appealing to the BA spotters’ mentality, then you’re not paying attention. That doesn’t preclude the opposite — many brewers returning to exemplary execution of classic styles — but those brewers don’t grab headlines.

  • Edwin says:

    What’s funny is I said “craft beer troll” and my girlfriend replied “has to be Ding”.

    I have gotten into it with him in the past, but at the end of the day you have to question whether drinking is fun for you or not. If the answer is no, you should probably stop.

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