Ding’s Beer Blog

12/22/2013
by Ding
9 Comments

Ding’s Christmas Wish List 2013

Here I go again with my annual Christmas wish list. The things I want Santa to deliver to my beer world.

It goes without saying (I think), that the old chestnuts of me wanting the abuse of cask beer via the addition of crap (i.e., treating a cask as a Randall), and the misuse of the term @sessionbeer, remain front and center for me, and as such I decided to leave them out of the list this year. They are not seasonal or fleeting ‘wants’, rather they are ubiquitous. Also, I’ve decided to leave out some of my more curmudgeonly wishes. Don’t get me wrong, they still exist and some remain the most important things for me, but I’m just not mentioning the annoying, hype driven scene, geeks and hipster culture that is associated with so much of the American beer scene, the lack of public transport or a whole host of other things that bother me on a daily basis.

So, what does make the list this year? Still some old favorites (with maybe a new twist), and some newer thoughts as the American beer scene continues to lurch from one hysterical, unsustainable, ill-advised fad to the next.

10. I’d like to see an arrest of the upward trend in beer prices in bars. Sure, wouldn’t we all? Of course, this is related to a larger question of economics that has nothing to do with beer per se, but for me, it’s getting to the point where the value is being lost. I’m lucky in as much as I have very few restrictions on what I can afford, but nevertheless, I’m now at a point where the value is very seldom realized for me. It’s beginning to make me think twice about spending money on draft beer.

9. I’d love a European, online retailer to somehow get a business model that could reduce the cost of shipping to the USA. Right now it’s REALLY difficult for me to justify the shipping cost of getting some of my favorite English and European beer to the USA. There are a number of really nice stores out there, but nobody can really give me a financial model that will work. Not necessarily their fault I understand, but it’s so frustrating to have a cart filled and then have to abandon it when I see the shipping costs.

8. #9 would become increasingly less of a concern if I could get some of the beers listed below, in the USA.

Cotleigh, St. Austell, Sharps, Leffe products other than Blonde and Brune, Pelforth Brune, more Adnams (Ghost Ship) and BUNCH of other English and Belgian brews that are far too numerous to mention.

7. I’d like to see some UK style Weights & Measures legislation in the US, including a federal legal requirement to display pour sizes and prices on beer menus. Far too often I come across the proverbial, ’14 oz pint’, and whole bunch of other ambiguous nonsense. I know Americans often cry about regulation, but would it be OK for gas stations to start the dispensing of random volumes? I think not. How people in the USA are not up in arms about this as it relates to mixed drinks, remains beyond my comprehension.

6. I hope that we start to see some breweries actually close. Just because you’ve home-brewed since 2006 it doesn’t make you fit to be a commercial brewer, and nor does it necessarily make your beer any good. The market is close to saturated at the consumer end of things, and there’s a LOT of mediocre, poor, bad and also really OLD beer on the shelves in many stores. I don’t pretend to know the intricate economics of the market, but what I do know is that there a plenty of brewers that are making beer that isn’t very good, but continues to sell because the market loves novelty and shiny things – this is a reflection of the immaturity of the market. I’ve said for a long time that this hurts the discerning consumer as well as the ignorant one, as good beer can get squeezed out of shelf space at the expense of poorer (but newer) product. The consumer market in the USA is still ignorant enough for corrections not to automically and naturally take place. For now, the market will not correct itself.

5. I’d like to see a growler store in West Georgia. Douglasville would be the obvious location, Villa Rica would be better for me! I think there is definitely a market for this on the west side, but I guess there may well be a lot of legal obstacles, out here in the sticks. Frankly, I don’t fill that many growlers these days, so for me it be less about the ‘need’ for it and more about the convenience, and the fact it would bring a little increased beer profile to this hopelessly barren part of the world. I find it quite odd that there has been no word on one out this way, given (a) the preponderance of growler stores in and around Atlanta right now, and (b) the fact that they have turned up in places as equally provincial as Douglasville, GA.

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12/18/2013
by Ding
9 Comments

Me on (in) Draft (Magazine)

Last Wednesday I received an email from Chris Staten. Chris is an editor at Draft magazine. He asked me to respond to a few, simple questions about my public beer persona for an article that he was putting together. I didn’t think much about it, was happy to respond and help, and shot-off some quick answers a couple of days later. Given the relatively trivial nature of the request (and my associated fairly simple response), I was more than a little surprised to see his article on Monday of this week. It was completely dedicated to me and what I have to say about beer.

I don’t know Chris, and in fact the only time I had ever encountered him was when he wrote a Session 79 post when I was hosting earlier this fall. When I read that post of his I wasn’t that impressed, and I said as much in my round-up post. Draft magazine has also been off my radar for a number of years (over 6, in fact). I only ever bought one copy of the magazine, the Jan/Feb 2007 issue with Mike & Mike on the cover. I still have that magazine, and I dragged it from the depths of the bookcase to check to see if my memory is as good as I think it is.

I seemed to remember vowing not to buy Draft again, since in my estimation it was a lifestyle magazine for young men, and not a serious beer publication for people of my age or my level of interest in beer. A quick glance back at the issue that I own, made me realize that my memory is just about perfect!

Rather than a serious beer article being featured on the cover, we get Mike & Mike. On page 15 we have this (that) months ‘Draft Lass’. The delightful Amy Jo Kurkendall (23) is featured, shall we say ‘prominently’. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a sucker for a pretty girl as the next man, but this lady and her chest is not something that I want in my beer magazine – there are other publications that one can purchase if that is what one is looking for. Following the delightful Amy (who certainly is delightful), we have articles on Après Ski, traveling in Vietnam, top 10 places to have a beer, a golf tournament, Kitboarding (an extreme sport, apparently), pizza, Mike & Mike from ESPN, Cowboys (and other ‘sexy’ jobs) and a guide to adventure. All of these articles have relevance to beer ranging from zero, through spurious, and ultimately on to weak. I like Mike & Mike and Amy has some obvious charms, but in 2007 Draft was most definitely not a magazine dedicated to beer – I dropped it and never picked it up again. In 2007 I was in in my early 40’s, and I would guess that even then I was about 15 years past their target demo. I have no idea if things have changed over at Draft.

So what about the content of this particular article in December of 2013?

Ding on Draft

Ding on Draft

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12/05/2013
by Ding
Comments Off on Session #82: Beery Yarns (a REDUX)

Session #82: Beery Yarns (a REDUX)

Here’s my Session #82 post. This month Steve at Beers I’ve known asks for Beery Yarns. If you recognize this post, you’re right, this is a cheat. I’ve posted it before, but this is such a great story that is close to my heart, I wanted to give it another airing to a wider audience.

And you thought The Bruery’s Partridge ‘IN’ a Pear Tree was something to get excited about!

11/12/2011 by Ding

If you are interested in beer and live in the USA, you’ll know that The Bruery’s Partridge In A Pear Tree is a beer that has provoked a whole bunch of that typical, American beer geek hysteria that I hate so much. It’s a beer that I thought of much as I prepared to write this post. At the end of the post, perhaps you’ll see why.

In 2009 an American, anglophile colleague of mine here in Atlanta, GA, gave me a hard-copy article from the NYT that was published in July of that year. He thought that I would be interested in it, and ostensibly he was absolutely correct. It was kind of him to think of me and I was interested to see what it was all about. However, my mood changed dramatically when I unfolded the paper and saw the beautiful picture and first few lines of Henry Shukman’s text. It was a piece from the travel section about pubs in the Cotswolds, and my state of mind at that time would not allow me to read the article – LITERALLY. I was so homesick in terms of English beer and pub culture that I knew that if I did read it I would get so upset that I would feel even more depressed about my beer plight than I already did. As a result the paper got filed in the office.

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11/29/2013
by Ding
Comments Off on Twisted South – the article that never was

Twisted South – the article that never was

In February of this year I was asked by a person that follows me on Twitter to write a counter-point article for Twisted South magazine. After 0ver 9 months of being told that ‘it will be published soon’, I’ve given up. Here’s what I wrote all that time ago.

‘The South’ and ‘beer culture’ in the same sentence? It’s counter intuitive to me, and I might even say oxymoronic.

I suppose that I should examine what I consider to be ‘beer culture’ before moving on. This isn’t an easy thing to do. Defining ‘culture’ of any description is fraught with subjectivity, so any ‘definitions’ need to be loose, non-specific and flexible enough to be non-prescriptive.

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11/26/2013
by Ding
4 Comments

Why I’ve stopped going to The Brick Store

After my decision last January not to attend Atlanta Cask Ale ’14 this coming January, the very event that I thought would be the one that kept me sane in terms of real ale in America, I started to reflect upon my role in the Atlanta beer scene in general. Ten months on and as we are approach that time of year again, my reflection has continued and deepened. While I have been contemplating where I stand, I found myself thinking about the time I have spent at The Brick Store over the years. As I was doing that, I realized that in the last 12-18 months I’ve hardly been in the building (at least not compared to the amount of time I’ve spent there in the past) and I began to ponder.

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11/24/2013
by Ding
Comments Off on Beer Review: Seeing Double IPA, Foothills Brewing

Beer Review: Seeing Double IPA, Foothills Brewing

Ding Points: 76.00

Pour: 70.00, Nose: 90.00, Palate: 70.00, Mouth: 80.00, Global: 80.00

Tasting Notes:

I’ve known this beer for many, many years and usually I’ve enjoyed it immensely, but this is the first time I’ve had it in the bottle and seems like a very different experience than all of my previous draught encounters. The color looks fine, but there are a HUGE amount of yeasties in the pour. Bottle-conditioned in the extreme, apparently! Really nice, mid-golden color once the beer clears and I can actually see what’s going on. A nice sized head and some very good lace and retention when considering the ABV.

Photo Mar 10, 4 59 09 PM

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11/18/2013
by Ding
2 Comments

Hypocrisy, FRESH and on tap!

It’s always heart-warming to be reminded from time to time that there are so many of us out there that belong to the, ‘mistreated by beeradvocate.com‘, club. My own story is well-documented, and unsurprisingly there are many, many others that are similar and equally disappointing – and it’s STILL going on, even years AFTER this. I think there’s a pattern emerging here, guys!

So, this morning was a good one. I woke up to read Chad’s Beer Nut column at timesunion.com where he details, and reflects upon, his own expulsion from the site, two years prior. Nothing new there, but as I say, still good to be reminded that there are plenty ‘like me’ still out there. The piece rang especially true with me, as my own ban was instituted in the Spring of 2011 just a few months before Chad’s. Of course, on reflection the ban was a great thing for me, since this blog was born as a direct result of beeradvocate’s action.

I probably check the site a few times a month these days, often after I get a message from somebody telling me that my name has been mentioned on the forum somewhere.

Living on

Living on

When I do check-in, it’s obvious that the forums are an absolute riot of useless nonsense. Again, nothing to report there, all of that’s old news as well, but as I looked around the site this evening (having been provoked by Chad’s piece), I noticed something that I had not done before.

Having had all my reviews deleted from beeradvocate (after I managed to save them all), I knew that the Bros. hypocrisy in terms of respecting beer knew no bounds, but my visit this evening revealed yet another layer of disrespect. Not only have they kept all of my photographs of places & beer, AND have kept places and beers that I added to the database (all of which I already knew about), now they have now taken to crediting THEMSELVES as the sources of those entries – CLASSY!

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 8.07.22 PM

Who added?

Who added?


10/04/2013
by Ding
1 Comment

Session #80 – The Craft Beer Bubble

The first Friday in October ’13 brings us Session #80, where Derek Harrison at It’s Not Just The Alcohol Talking asks, ‘Is Craft Beer a Bubble?‘.

I’m no economist, and in any case economics is a soft science at best, so I guess it doesn’t matter, but here’s my take.

No matter what the relative competence of a brewery in terms of what they brew, or indeed competence in terms of their business plan, infrastructure, finances and strategies, as long as their beer actually SELLS, then it’s entirely possible for incompetent, ‘bad’ breweries, to survive. In some cases, in particular in America, these breweries even thrive. So, that brings us to the American craft beer market.

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09/15/2013
by Ding
Comments Off on Beer Review: Westbrook Brewing Co., Weisse Weisse Baby

Beer Review: Westbrook Brewing Co., Weisse Weisse Baby

Ding Points: 70.50

Pour: 40.00, Nose: 70.00, Palate: 80.00, Mouth: 80.00, Global: 70.00

Tasting Notes:

$9.99 for the 750 mL from Growlers, HHI, SC, USA. Bottled 3/29/13.

Well this beer has been a long time coming. A few years ago, a few months before Westbrook had even opened, I had the pleasure of meeting Ed Westbrook at a party held in Charleston (thanks Brian Z.). Ed brought two beers with him that he was piloting for the new brewery. One I forget (perhaps a Strong Belgian Dark), but the the Berliner Weisse I did not. It was astonishingly good.

I was thinking that WWB might be an re-incarnation of that beer, or perhaps, actually that beer. A quick Twitter exchange with Ed confirmed that indeed WWB IS ‘that beer’. I must admit, WWB seemed dramatically different than I remembered, and I was surprised that Ed confirmed that the two beers were one and the same.

Westbrook, Weisse Weisse Baby

Westbrook, Weisse Weisse Baby

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09/08/2013
by Ding
10 Comments

Session #79 – The round up and a few rebuttals

OK, Session #79 is now over and the thoughts of many have been recorded for posterity. There weren’t quite as many posts as I was expecting, and some of the writing wasn’t very good, but here’s my summary. If I have left you out it was NOT intentional. My apologies, and if you contact me I will gladly correct my oversight.

The first thing that I want to comment on is my own Session #79 post. Frankly, even after a lot of time and consideration I was still left a little dissatisfied with what I wrote. I knew this before I posted it, so this is not an after-the-fact observation. I struggled with the direction of the post quite a bit, and I think that I know why. I have written so much about the cultural divide in other, more specific ways, that I felt that I had already covered most of this ground elsewhere. Also, when writing about such matters without a specific topic in mind (as I was on this occasion), it can sound more like a tirade that lacks focus, than a considered, well crafted opinion. This is why I wanted people to read my other posts on cultural differences in the same vein – I hope that people took the time to do that, because taken together, I think that a clear pictures evolves.

The first Session #79 post came in quite a few days early from Simon Tucker. As Simon explains in his post, he is an Englishman in America too. I was a little confused by two things that he said in the first few lines of his offering. Firstly his reference to CAMRA makes little sense to me. What that has to do with my position I’m not sure. He goes on to write something that I absolutely disagree with; ‘And whilst I agree that America is not making the best beer in the world right now, it is the best place to be drinking beer’. On the contrary, I think some (not all, but some) of the best beer IS being brewed in America, but despite that America is a TERRIBLE place to be drinking beer – in fact I’d go further, and say that is really the whole point of my Session #79 post! I am in a place that sits 180 degrees from Simon’s statement. Continue Reading →