The Ringwood Effect

Why Does My Beer Taste of Butter?

Diacetyl (die-ASS-uh-teel), or 2,3-butanedione, is a flavor found in some beers. Maybe you’ve heard beer nerds talking about it in their secret code: “butter bomb” or “the big D.” When a beer drinker is offended by diacetyl he or she may reluctantly choke it down or even refuse it altogether. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, figuratively and literally.

Tiny amounts of diacetyl in beer can lend a butterscotch-like flavor and a caramel complexity. English and Scottish ales sometimes exhibit it, as do some Czech pilsners. Chardonnays may have noticeable diacetyl, too. How could this be a bad thing? Who doesn’t like a little butter or butterscotch?

Exceeding trace amounts can cause a beer to be dominated by a chemically, greasy, mouth-coating, popcorn butter flavor that ruins the beer drinking experience altogether. And once you know what it smells like, you may become disinclined from even taking a sip.


Strangely, not all beer drinkers are offended by this taint. Human individuals have a varying taste threshold. Furthermore, some people who have become accustomed to diacetyl as a house character appear to actually like it. Is this because they indeed prefer it, they aren’t bothered by it, or because they don’t even notice it?

It’s the Yeast… errr… the Brewer

Shortcuts are fine when they lower cost or increase consumer choice, but not when they affect product quality. Perhaps diacetyl is held in such disregard because the two major causes of it have to do with brewers and bar owners taking shortcuts. In this article we’ll focus on brewing methods that promote diacetyl. In a subsequent piece we’ll touch on dirty tap lines and infected beer.

All beer yeasts produce some diacetyl early during the fermentation. In later stages of fermentation, healthy yeast consume the free diacetyl unless the brewer has chilled the young beer too early. Crashing, as it is called, is a technique to promote sedimentation of proteins and yeast in the beer by chilling to near freezing. If the beer is crashed too soon and then served, the diacetyl will remain.

Beers are prone to diacetyl when fermented with the famed Ringwood yeast, or Bohemian lager strains, and they are crashed too early. When using these strains, the brewer must allow beer that has been cold conditioning to warm up to the 60s for a day or two in order to promote the metabolism of the remaining diacetyl. This is called a diacetyl rest. The diacetyl rest takes time and consumes more refrigeration energy, because the beer has to be chilled twice.

It didn’t help that the early proponents of brewing with Ringwood yeast advertised the ability to produce “beer in five days.” By fermenting the beer very fast and getting it transferred to your serving tanks or bottling line, you need less tank capacity and you pay for less refrigeration in your brewery. Great if you’re an accountant, but not so good if your customer base abhors diacetyl.

Englishman and biochemist Alan Pugsley takes the credit for bringing the Ringwood method to the US. The “method” includes not only the proprietary yeast strain, but also the use of open fermenters and the principle of top cropping to harvest yeast.

Pugsley worked at the Ringwood Brewery before opening the Shipyard Brewing Co. in Portland, Maine in 1994 with partner Fred Forsley. In 2002 the pair bought another Maine brewery, Seadog Brewing Co.

Pugsley, like diacetyl, is not without controversy. As beer writer Andy Crouch tells it, Pugsley comes across as indignant towards the wave of Ringwood critics while being commensurately critical about strong or exceedingly hoppy beers.

As a consultant on brewery startups, Pugsley has influenced many breweries, including: Magic Hat, St. Ambroise (now called Brasserie McAuslan), and Middle Ages Brewing Co. Middle Ages’ brewer Marc Rubenstein interned at Shipyard prior to opening his Syracuse brewery with his wife Mary.

While each of these breweries has gone on record about how they deal with diacetyl production, there is no doubt to this writer that the beers they produce still contain it. The levels can vary between recipe and batch, from marginal to intolerable. In some beers, a touch of diacetyl adds some complexity. But when diacetyl dominates the flavor and mouthfeel of a beer, I, for one, will send it right back. TPJ

Ed. Thanks to regular reader BR for suggesting this topic. Requests are always considered.

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The Parlance of Pairing

Much has been said lately about pairing beer with food. The principles include:

• Intensity – stronger flavored beers go with stronger flavored foods.
• Complementarity (or Harmony)– pairing items with similar flavors.
• Contrast – using opposing flavors to create interest.

But the real jewel of beer-food pairing, according to my outlook, is the less predicable creation of flavor synergy. Synergy is the cooperation of agents that produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

Synergies can occur regardless of whether you’re focusing on intensity, harmony, or contrast. These are flavors that only reveal themselves when the comestibles are brought together. By my reckoning, synergies fall into three modes of expression: mutation, rebirth, and reduction.

Mutation

In mutation, the combination evokes altogether new flavors that seem unrelated to the flavors of either the beer or the food. It seems to me that these new flavors are not hidden in either product, but are a collective sensory reaction to sense organ stimuli interpreted by the brain.

My earliest memory of this experience occurred in high school. A student I didn’t know gregariously foisted upon me a piece of sourdough bread, a slice of lemon, and some salt. She made a little sandwich and fed it to me and said “See, doesn’t it taste like plums?!” Oddly, it did.

I admit to only retrying the experiment once and I was unable to reproduce the effect, but my ingredients were from different sources. I remember thinking about the various ingredients and being unable to reconcile the new flavor. Yes, she was cute. Could it have been the power of suggestion?

I tasted an example of this effect more recently when I enjoyed a cold peanut and shrimp soup with a hoppy Belgian ale. Neither had saffron in it, but the flavor of saffron was evident in the combination.

Rebirth

A second sense of synergy is rebirth. In rebirth we experience the primal ingredients in the beer and/or food. We might detect hops that are unusually bright and green. Or maybe field-fresh grainy or grassy flavors derived from the malt.

Barrel-aged beers with sherry and old wood notes might taste suddenly of pristine, new oak. Or an aged cider might explode with freshly pressed apples. This last example happened to me last week with Farnum Hill Semidry Cider and French cornichons. The acidity, mustard and tarragon of the pickles remained, but the cider went back in time, like biting into a freshly picked apple.

Reduction

Reduction occurs when complementary flavors in both the food and drink cancel each other out. After this neutralization, what is left is an expression of some of the unique ingredients or underlying flavors.

In one event I paired smoked almonds with a smoked porter. I was going for matching intensity and complementary flavors. I thought it would be an easy pairing. In fact, as huge as the smoke flavors were in the nuts and the beer, the smoke almost completely vacated when the two were tasted together. This left a fresh almond flavor from the nuts and a chocolatey-caramelly-nutty malt base from the porter. Those flavors were always there but they were hidden behind the intense smoke.

Another time I was asked to pair a beer with a challenging dessert course: grapefruit meringue pie. I chose Great Divide’s Titan IPA, a beer with an overdose of those hops and high enough alcohol to balance the intensity of the pie. Here again I was shooting for harmony with the grapefruit.

I really was taking a chance, because my audience was more accustomed to wine. I was fearful of the strong bitterness of this beer. But the grapefruit flavors diminished and the graham cracker piecrust came to the fore, nicely matching the sweet malty backbone of the beer.

Synergies do not occur with every pairing. But do be on the lookout. When they do happen you will be left with a lasting impression of your meal. TPJ.

Anise Liqueurs of the Mediterranean

Absinthe, you may know by now, is an anise-flavored spirit that contains a mildly psychotropic herb called wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). The drink originated in Switzerland and was popular among Paris-based artists around the turn of the previous century. Absinthe was outlawed in many countries by the early 20th century. It has since been largely re-legalized.

Anise-flavored drinks without wormwood came into their own during the intervening years. In France it was pastis, ouzo in Greece, and raki for the Turks. Indeed, most non-Muslim countries on the Mediterranean produce such a drink. anise map

Culturally, anise drinks are most often taken during the afternoon or before the meal. But they are also consumed as a digestif. They aid digestion and deodorize the mouth. Most are sweetened, but a few, like traditional absinthe, are not. The formula may call for anise seed, fennel, licorice, star anise, or some combination. The spirit base for most comes from the distillate of fermented grape must: marc in France, grappa in Italy, etc.

As with absinthe, adding water to these liqueurs causes a milky color to form. This results from the oils in the spices coming out of solution with the alcohol. This may be referred to as la louche (FR: cloudiness) or simply the ouzo effect. Typically one part of liqueur is placed in a small tumbler and five parts of spring water is added. There are those, however, who prefer taking shots. Anise liqueur can be used in cooking and is an essential ingredient in bouillabaisse.

Several films I’ve recently watched depict these drinks in their natural setting. In the two-part Jean de Florette and Manon de Source, villagers in the south of France sit at café tables in the town plaza drinking pastis and gossiping. In the film The Edge of Heaven, Turkish immigrants living in Germany drink raki with most meals, sometimes to excess.

The next time you enjoy a Mediterranean meal, consider finishing with an anise-liqueur. The flavors are sympathetic and you will pay homage to the more legendary drink – absinthe. More on that subject is on the way. TPJ.

Beer Finds its Rightful Place – At the Dining Table, Pt. 2

Chocolate and Beer is Nothing New

Beer-chocolate tasting kit from Theo Chocolate (www.theochocolate.com).

The pairing of beer with chocolate by chefs and beer specialists is an increasingly common occurrence. They may toil over what to pair with fiddleheads, artichokes or pickles, but chocolate pairing is almost too easy.

  • • Chocolate flourless cake trimmed with raspberries, whipped cream, and mint paired with Lindemans Framboise (a Belgian sweet-sour raspberry wheat ale).

    • Banana split with chocolate and coffee ice cream, chocolate sauce, all the extras, and Schneinder Aventinus (a German wheat dopplebock).

    • Belgian dark chocolate pralines from Pierre Marcolini with the equally decadent and endemic Kasteelbier Donker.

    • Fresh fruit over a custardy tart decorated with caramel sauce paired with a North Coast Old Rasputin (hoppy imperial stout).

  • Successfully pairing chocolate with beer can be based on any or all of the three tenets of pairing: matching intensity of flavors, seeking complementary liaisons, and creating contrasts.

    For the first, use a full flavored chocolate with lots of subtleties and some bitterness. Pair that with an equally intense beer. Beer intensity can be judged in terms of alcohol content, bitterness, and aroma/flavor.

    Handmade chocolates served with a range of Goose Island Bourbon County stouts.

    Complementarity between chocolate and beer occurs when any of the flavors of bitter chocolate, milk chocolate, caramel, sugar, fruitiness, nuttiness or cookies appear in both the food and the drink. Doubtless there are other complements, depending on the specific flavors of the chocolate and the beer.

    Mondial de la Bière's Jeannine Marois enjoys a maltcicle with her beer.

    Lastly, there is the contrast. Pairing a fruity wheat beer with a rich chocolate dessert is a common example. Pairings that both complement and contrast can be most interesting. I’m impressed by the idea of a dark chocolate praline infused with Earl Grey tea paired with a Belgian wit seasoned with Curaçao orange peel. Here the bergamot flavor and tannic mouthfeel of the tea pairs with the bitter orange peel and coriander seed in the beer, while the effervescent and grainy witbier lifts the rich chocolate off the tongue.

    Iberico ham, sour citrus, and white chocolate mousse paired with Allagash Odyssey.

    Chocolate was a Beverage First

    Chocolate and beer have both been around far longer then we might release. Let me propose that chocolate and alcoholic fermented beverages were associated over thirty centuries ago in early mesoamerica. This isn’t too hard to swallow when you consider that both are mild sedatives and both have reputed aphrodisiac properties.

    With the sophistication of early Central American cultures, it is not surprising that the indigenous peoples were drinking beer-like beverages. Primarily ceremonial, these drinks might have been a corn-based beer called chicha, primarily associated with Peru, or a honey-wine called xtabentun (pr: shtah-ben-toon) made from a narcotic green honey and perhaps seasoned with herbs, including anise (was this Mayan absinthe?).

    You don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to realize that if chocolate and fermented drink can each get you closer to Quetzalcoatl, then both together must be better. Speaking of better, the National Geographic reports that the early chocolate beverages were indeed fermented and comprised a primitive beer. Those Toltecs knew in 1100 BC what we’ve only just re-discovered: that chocolate and beer are a natural combination. TPJ.

    Beer Finds its Rightful Place – At the Dining Table, Pt. 1

    I’ll Have Fish with My Beer

    Recent forays into several dimly-lit Windy City restaurants once again confirmed the wonderful synergies that beer makes with everything rich or salty, fruity or spicy. One of the best flavor partnerships is that formed between beer and fish. For being so far from sea, Chicago chefs are all over the fish – fresh, fried, smoked, grilled, you name it. Quite often there are hearty dinner beers on offer.

    A five-course dinner at Blackbird brought together Chef Paul Kahan’s team with Allagash Brewing Company’s founder Rob Tod. Midway through the meal we were served a sumptuous piece of wood-grilled California sturgeon with charred ramps, miniscule pumpernickel croutons, and a touch of grapefruit with a basil chiffonade.

    An Allagash Interlude with wood-grilled sturgeon.

    Ramps are a spring wild onion, something like a fibrous green onion with a lightly purple stem. The dish was paired with Interlude, a Belgian-styled ale that comes across as something like an mature saison. The beer is influenced by Brettanomyces yeast and oak barrel conditioning.

    The combination was at first harmonious, with the earthiness of the fish matching the Belgian yeast character and the sulfur of the ramps finding a sulfury companion in the beer. The dark bread met the malted grains evenly. The most surprising chemistry, though, was that the beer erupted with a huge fresh hop character that was somehow liberated from beneath the beer’s age characteristics.

    In a promotional video, Blackbird chef Paul Kahan describes his food as “seasonal American,” “not gloppy, clean sauces, clean vinaigrettes… light on the palate.” His kitchen delivered. Allagash is serious about food, too. The brewery has supported the Institute of Culinary Education with a cuisine à la bière scholarship for the last eight years.

    The following night was the gala anniversary party at Goose Island Beer Company. Just a few hundred crazed foodies inside the stillage room where beers like Sophie and Matilda are conditioned in hundreds of used bourbon barrels.

    Nicole Pederson has arrived as executive chef of C-House Restaurant.

    Nine up and coming chefs from the area were invited to present small plates – and wow what presentation! One of my favorites was smoked black cod on rye toast, prepared by Nicole Pederson and her staff from C-House. Accompaniments included a dab each of beer mustard, pickled rhubarb and a morel duxelle. The morsel was topped by spinach-like miner’s lettuce, a green in the purslane family. This plate collaborated well with several of Goose Island’s barrel-aged beers.

    Succulent smoked black cod with young miner's lettuce leaves.

    After Goose Island, my friend Peter and I dined at The Publican, sister restaurant to Blackbird. Although Chef Kahan says “it’s all about bacon,” fish dishes make up a quarter of the menu. The softly smoked arctic char, served on whole grain toast with a poached egg and fresh black pepper was a perfect opener.

    Smoked arctic char with IPA at The Publican

    Then on Friday (yes, three nights this week!) it was time to try Brasserie Jo, a French bistro located downtown, just north of the river. Like the proverbial kid in a candy store, at first it was difficult to choose, but I settled on a three-course do-it-myself menu starting with a fish course: fried smelts over soy-infused pearl barley with diced celery root and an herbed aioli.

    Fried smelts, pearled barley and bière d'hibiscus - who knew?

    The staff were a little harried so I didn’t follow up on whether the aioli included chervil or tarragon. The lemon wedge on top proved essential in pairing with my beer – Rosée d’hibiscus from the Dieu du Ciel microbrewery in St. Jérôme, Québec.

    Voila! Fish every night with fine beer. I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s line:

    Agassiz does recommend authors to eat fish, because the phosphorus in it makes brains. But I cannot help you to a decision about the amount you need to eat. Perhaps a couple of whales would be enough.

    À votre santé – TPJ

    World Beer Cup Journal, Part 3

    Web’l w/o a ‘Blog

    Writing entries to a web log confounds writers like me. What is happening to language that web log contracted to blog? Why not web’l? It isn’t that web log is such a mouthful. Just say “www” three times fast and you’ll see what I mean. I think I’ll call them blahhgs.

    I am one of those écrivains who had it beaten into his head to write in third person. For me, one mark of a good article is that the writer isn’t the point of the tale. Or, as my muse more directly puts it when reading amateur journalism, “I don’t care about you.” (‘You’ the writer, not ‘you’ the ‘me.’ She likes me, it turns out.)

    Source: fashionindie.com

    But that is the niche of web logs isn’t it? They are at there best as a public diary. They are suited to opinion pieces, self-aggrandizing pulp and self-effacing doody. Web logs fit in well with today’s shameless electronic version of plagiarism. Why should anyone who grew up with wikipedia, ebay and the major news networks expect reliability? But hey, at least web logs are good for the proverbial people with too much time on their hands.

    My friend Peter says I’m “long on principle.” (Is that an insult or a complement?) Why am I making such a stink over this? Well, it keeps coming up when I speak to journalist friends. They hate blahhgs because with all the free and editor-less content they provide, the value contributed by real journalists has diminished.

    At the recent Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago I ran into some alums of the Brewing News stable. Sheesh, some of these guys still work for BN. Few of us made anything close to a living working for BN, but we all have a lot of great memories. And we at least made an effort to get the facts straight, tell an interesting story, and enrich the readership about beer.

    So the Palate Jack web log is here and it is firmly in the first person. Considering that fact, I am glad to be re-engaging with my favorite publishers and editors. Those bits, for the most part, had better not be in the first person. Because underneath it all, why should you be thinking about me, the writer? TPJ.

    World Beer Cup Journal, Part 2

    A-hem, Judges with Benefits

    Q: Can a bunch of graying beer nerds find salvation locked up together in a dark cellar?

    A: Don’t you worry about that!

    After a long day of stoically judging cream ales and English milds, we judges make our way to Rock Bottom. There’s a reception upstairs for the World Beer Cup judges. Also present is the essential cadre of organizers and stewards.

    Beers pour freely and buffet tables encourage mingling. Pretty soon our little table has judges from three continents rubbing shoulders. On the left, Michael Müller, high up technology guy at Weihenstephan. There’s George from one of the premier German hop growers. Self-described English beer maven Glenn Payne is about. (Glenn is not the dead gospel singer, but he and I do like to sing Jerusalem whenever there’s an audience.) Some Japanese guys tuck in.

    The evening is just moving along when we see Pete Crowley, the Rock Bottom brewer. Crowley’s good with barrel-aged beer. It isn’t a new gimmick for him. He was one of the early bourbon barrel guys ten or fifteen years ago.

    There’s a subtle vibe beginning to form around him. Surreptitiously, people from around the room are coalescing near him. Despite that chaos that is a hall filled with a couple hundred thirsty souls, Pete Crowley is like the drain in a bathtub – some of these people seem to be circling him. Are they aware of what force acts upon them?

    Pete seems a slim and impish fellow. He is excited and engaged. How often is the World Beer Cup three blocks away from you? With a bird-like exuberance he welcomes us into his bower. It is one of those times when you say good things happen to good people and it isn’t just a platitude to help us get over inequity.

    Off to the side of the room and looking out at the crowd, we notice this gravitational spin that has Pete Crowley as its nucleus. Michael and I consciously decide to participate, partly by instinct, partly out of experience. We cluster close. We try to avoid being too obvious. We only suspect that this agglomeration is going somewhere. We overhear the word cellar.

    Pete looks around and announces to the huddle, “Okay, we’ll go down.” So we go down the drain that is Pete Crowley… into a freight elevator.

    We squeeze into the box as if it is a Tokyo subway car. Trained noses and all, there was someone wearing a wool jacket that smelled of the countryside and another had Italian food smells lodged in his beard. You could smell anticipation, too. Anticipation is made up of a pleasing armpit sweat commingled with a man’s deep exhalation, glimmering eyes, and nervous laughter.

    Some don’t make it into the car, but they are assured that they will be retrieved. We are going down, all the way, beyond where the lowest button can take us. Two frayed wires emerge from beneath a switch plate. Crowley asks if we’re ready, more so to warn us. He finds room to reach down and twists the wires together, the car jolts, the sickly light overhead flickers off and then back on. We fall slowly as the car wags back and forth. It’s as if we’re in a bucket being lowered into an old well.

    When the door opens we can smell the strange confluence of wet, old masonry and brewery disinfectant. Pete flicks on an unseen switch and a string of solitary light bulbs appear along the ceiling, disappearing around a corner. He advises us about watching our step. But in this dreamy moment we float over unseen obstacles. We arrived in the place as from a dream. We did not know how, exactly, or where, certainly, we had come to be.

    Shortly we are there, crowding around what seemed just a few wood barrels. The tiny space was filled with murmurings in strange tongues, like a deep meditation where one meets their spirit guides. This was Pete Crowley’s inner sanctum. It was a private and personal place. He was letting us inside him.

    Soon small plastic cups of a viscous black brew were handed out amongst us. It was black coffee and bitter chocolate and vanilla extract and cookie crumbs. It was forged in an Aztec crypt and a Belgian café and a lost, forested island. The elixir went down so smoothly. The murmurings became louder. Pete Crowley had done something.

    What must have been the second carload of supplicants join us. It includes Brad Kraus, a man cast in the likeness of Buffalo Bill Cody, and Chris Swersey, the competition organizer. He is the humblest and bravest man of the day. He is the one who has deftly juggled judges’ skills and beer styles and numbers of tables and who does what.

    Chris Swersey in focus would have to wait.

    This was a different Chris Swersey, he had taken off his officer’s cap and mingled in the trenches. He saw the camera and said to me, “My pictures are always blurry. No one can take a picture of me without it being blurry.” It was a poorly veiled challenge. Looking back, it was a miracle my camera captured anything. Chris Swersey in focus would have to wait.

    In seeing him we remember that that we are here with a job to do, to fairly and soberly judge lovingly made beers from around the globe. That would be tomorrow. It was a thought that, for a moment, brought me to the edge of dreaming, to the place where one realizes what bed they’re in. But quickly enough we are back in the swirling moments.

    The bucket brigade and Michael Müller's geist.

    The cups come around again. This time we see how they were being filled. Pete has a small stainless nail in the barrelhead. He pulls it out with a pair of pliers and the beer pisses out of the barrel in a tiny braided strand. The cups moved through in a bucket brigade fashion. If you are standing nearby you see what needs to be done and you hand cups forward or back.

    More laughter. Brad Kraus helps, his basso chortles are infectious. The cups go around again. A German beer princess is here now, she asks for a glass of wine… and Eric Toft is in lederhosen. Another round circulates.

    For the second time now, Pete says it is the last round. We enter the time of the night when alcohol and heartfelt goodness collude. Pete’s normally Puckish playfulness takes on a serious note, nearly lachrymose. He toasts to those in this dream with him. It is his moment and we are there and we feel it.

    In the morning, we wake up refreshed. Knowing glances flash between some of us… between those of us who let go and flowed down the drain into the rusted dungeon of our collective beer subconscious. TPJ.

    World Beer Cup Journal, Part 1

    The Inner Sanctum

    Gothic towers harbored ghosts of so many dead journalists. Judge right lest ye be judged.

    Last month the biennial World Beer Cup took place in downtown Chicago. In two amazingly relaxed and well-orchestrated days, about 180 judges from 26 countries meted out judgment on over 3,330 beers entered from 44 countries.

    It may not be a secret society of Ivy League insiders, but judging the world’s largest and most intense beer competition is a private affair shared by a fortunate few. Sure, it sounds like a great gig – 50, 60, 70 beers a day – but truth be known, it is a very sober and nerdy process.

    Here’s the math. Even if a judge were to consume one ounce of each beer during the day’s judging, total alcohol consumed would be no more than four 12-ounce bottles over an 8-hour period. Many judges, including yours truly, usually draw conclusions from even less, perhaps only a tablespoonful. Do you know what judges do after a long day’s judging? That’s right, they head out for a couple of beers. After all the little Dixie cups, that first pint begins to look terribly appetizing.

    Not anyone can judge. You must have beer cred. Industry peeps need to give aspiring judges props. Some sort of covert BIA (beer intelligence agency) maintains your dossier. Show up five minutes late, twiddle your iPhone during judging, or argue im-peaceably with other judges and you will likely not be invited back. Yes, judges have disappeared.

    Judge calibration on the eve of judgment day is one of the few places where photography is permitted.

    The culture and ritual involved in what might seem a simple matter of taste is, in fact, quite a structured affair. Here the dogmas of beer are parlayed, usually with caution and respect, occasionally without. Discipline (a.k.a “sobriety”) and diplomacy (known as “judge demeanor”) are valued traits. Of course, you have to have the palate to discriminate the universe of beer flavors – right good flavors and left over flavors. You have to know what each beer style should look, smell, taste, and feel like. Beer judging is like dog judging… except it generally smells better and there are the… other… intangibles. What could he mean by that? TPJ.

    The Palate Jack Goes Fulltime

    It is true, The Palate Jack has decided it is time to make the avocation the vocation. Other people will now carry on with the environmental cleanup, whilst I turn my attention full-time to writing on the lifestyle subjects of slow food, good beverages, conviviality and travel. What can you expect from a kid who would play hooky from school so he could read the dictionary in bed!?

    This quote caught my attention and seemed to sum up my personal zeitgeist:

    George Herbert 1593-1633

    Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.‘ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

    Ol’ George and I don’t have much in common other than wordsmithing. He was an Anglican priest with an understated wardrobe who died at 39. On the other hand, I am better fed, already older, and with more colorful vêtements.

    Back to the writing… the goals for the first year are to contribute more pieces to periodicals, knock out a book or two, and keep the world apprised of my progress via this web log. I am currently igniting new and older publishing acquaintances and looking into both “publish on demand” services and traditional publishers for the book projects.

    For the next few months I’ll be burning the proverbial paraffin from both ends while packing up from Nevada and migrating to softer, greener Hobbit holes. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to everyone who has supported me in this decision. I know what it means to have true friends. By mid-summer the web log should be cruising along with regular additions. There’s no time like the present to sign on for the email or other feeds! Please do. TPJ

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