Beer Review 0036: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald

On this miserable rainy Wednesday here in North Carolina, I figure no finer time than to pull out a “heavy” beer of some sort…

Edmund Fitzgerald, a dark porter from the Ohio company Great Lakes Brewing, is named after what one might suspect it to be: the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a freighter ship that sank in 1975 in Canadian waters during a fierce winter storm. All 29 people on board lost their lives, making this the most well-known disaster in the history of Great Lakes shipping and making it the subject of a Gordon Lightfoot song just a year later, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

Great Lakes is quite a unique company in that they have incredibly admirable (get it?) environmental sustainability principals coupled with a social conscience. Honestly, their values fit just about perfect with mine. To learn about their “Triple Bottom Line” and what the three waves on the bottle mean, check out my review of the tasty Burning River, a Pale Ale by the same company.

Edmund Fitzgerald, according to the Great Lakes paperwork, falls in their beer family as the “dark, complex middle child.” This porter is advertised as having a bittersweet chocolate and coffee taste with bold hops; there are three types of hops present here, Northern Brewer, Fuggle and Cascade. (Great Lakes are also unique in the fact that they tell you some of the ingredients that goes into the beer.)

This drink weighs in at just 5.8% ABV (alcohol by volume), which is a little light as far as most porters go.

The pour gives way to a very dark liquid that produces a small and compact creamy head. The beer looks as if it is very thick and muddy, going from deep and dark black at the top of the glass to a tawny brown near the bottom. Although muddy, there are no particles to be found, and the lacing was nothing short of excellent, leaving thick and heavy sheets down the glass as the beverage disappeared.

Never mind all the talk of hops in Edmund Fitzgerald; this is clearly a malt bomb. This smells like pure dessert with layers upon layers of chocolate and a subtle coffee in the background, it all being rounded out by being so fresh and roasted. There’s a sweet caramel in there, along with hints of bread, but overwhelming is the delicious chocolate.

On the palate, a treat. Right off, I noticed this is not as strong in body as its appearance. At first taste, a hint of caramel sweetness that leads into a deeply roasted and smokey flavor, which grows and turns into a bittersweet dark chocolate and coffee blend that is almost just as savory as it is sweet. These are complex malts but in an easy-to-drink form. I was amazed at how light the mouthfeel was and how easy this was to drink for it being a porter.

You’ve got the best of both worlds here with Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald. You get a delicious and complex porter that you could drink all evening long without getting tired of it — it’s not overly sweet, it’s not overly bitter or strong. It shocked me how fast I downed this beverage, a testimony to how good it tasted. This would be a good start into the world of porter.

This beer is a home run that’s dying to be put in my regular rotation.

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald, 93 points. Price: $8.99 US for six pack.

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