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.