When the Poet Dies is an absolute masterpiece and a strong candidate for the DDB top 10 of 2022.
My girlfriend in college lived with her parents in a townhouse in Emeryville. I would bring her Parliaments and she would smoke as we walked the gentrified corridors nestled between a nautical shipping hub and Jack London’s Square. I would ride my 1988 Yamaha Riva scooter back to Berkeley in the crisp bay air and there was a certain flash of hope for the future.
This double barreled barleywine fulfills all of that youthful hope and ambition in spades. It provides fig jam, a cask profile that is lean and more nuanced than Dennis Miller’s sub-references. The middle body has a gritty sweetness akin to Halva, swallow transitioning to peanut brittle swirling a Boulevardier.
She lived on the fourth floor and dumped me later that year. She was going to art school in the city and this was the Myspace era. I had to pass by her British parents in the living room on my way out on the third floor. They were watching Faulty Towers. My eyes welled up and I said “Good show, thanks for being nice to me” and left Emeryville and never went back.
The bitter saturation from the double casking provides this sense of scale. How warm your chest and be in the present and how distant the past can seem. The same maraschino cherries in your Roy Rogers as a child surface as boozy red fruit in the merger of these waves of simple pleasures.
It’s not that the Chevy’s in Emeryville is even that good, it isn’t. Nor do the Michelin star spots of the present offset the longing for the imperfect past. Drinking an exceptional, focused, thrusting barleywine is mediator to reconcile the present luxuries with the winces of experience.
The passing oak, a swallow of mild carbonation. It’s so simple, it feels like when someone tells you that Grey’s Anatomy is still on the air and youre like no that cant be right. 18 seasons feels wrong. The same initial experiences that we now chase dovetail with the ones we currently neglect.
This is a barleywine that is good enough to make you return to Emeryville.