Not unlike its namesake, the Edmund Fitzgerald has been a flagship product for its Great Lakes Brewing Co. (GLBC) brand. Perhaps no other year-round beer has helped GLBC spread its good name more than this dark and delicious porter, which won another Gold Medal at the World Beer Championships in 2012. The porter is named after the famous SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which sailed the Great Lakes for 17 years, becoming a symbol of commerce at ports around Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, before tragically sinking in 1975.
The Edmund Fitzgerald Porter honors the 29 crew members that died on Lake Superior 37 years ago, but it also celebrates the journey of GLBC’s quality craft brewed beers, which continue to ship to new communities all over the Midwest.
“With permission from their families, we honored the deceased and the ship’s memory with the name,” explained Luke Purcell, brewer and field sales quality specialist. “The Edmund Fitzgerald has been one of our five year-round offerings since we started brewing in 1988. It’s won several awards, and it’s a very successful offering for us.”
Great Lakes Brewing Co. was the first microbrewery in Ohio, and in 2011 it was the 18th largest craft brewery in the United States (27th biggest brewery overall), according to the Brewers Association. The brewery was established by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, and right now its beer can be found in bars and beverage outlets from Michigan and Minnesota to North Carolina and New Jersey (14 states overall).
In 2012, GLBC brewed 11,388 barrels (bbls) of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. The popular porter has a dark brown pour and a thick creamy head, the aroma of cocoa, burnt sugar and coffee and a taste that is mildly bitter with a touch of sweetness and toasted malt. What are the ingredients? The malts include Harrington two-row base malt, Crystal 77, chocolate and roasted barley. The hops include Northern Brewer, Willamette and Cascade.
“As with all styles, it starts with high-quality ingredients,” Purcell said. “I would suggest choosing your flavor profile based on whether you want the porter to be sweet, robust or anything in between. Water chemistry is very important as well. Most brewers research the water chemistry of the part of the world where the style originated. We are pretty lucky here to have water that is great for brewing stouts and porters. I would also suggest a good balance of flavors; don’t let it be one-dimensional. Some of the darker malts have a tendency to take over the flavor of the beer, so just be careful to not go overboard and keep everything balanced.”
The Edmund Fitzgerald is a well-balanced and highly drinkable beer, Purcell said. Just look at its long list of awards (below). He also noted how drinkers are often surprised at how smooth the porter is when they first taste it. Usually, people, even those who enjoy a porter or stout, tend to only want to have one or two before switching to a different style. GLBC feels that its Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is one that keeps customers coming back for more, which is why this beer continues to be a staple in the offerings of this top craft brewer no matter the time of year.
“Edmund Fitzgerald is a delicious and award-winning beer, and it’s offered year-round at an attractive and competitive price point for a high-quality craft porter,” said Marissa DeSantis, communications assistant at GLBC. “Some people may prefer to drink porters in colder weather, but I echo Luke’s sentiment about how well-balanced it is. It’s a fairly low ABV beer that doesn’t feel heavy and still delivers a complex and robust flavor profile. I think it tastes great in any weather.”
The awards for Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter include (drum roll, please):
Gold Medal, 2012 World Beer Championships
Gold Medal, 2011 World Beer Championships
Gold Medal, 2008 World Beer Championships
Silver Medal, 2007 Great American Beer Festival
Gold Medal, 2006 World Beer Championships
Bronze Medal, 2004 Great American Beer Festival
Gold Medal, 2003 World Beer Championships
Gold Medal, 2002 Great American Beer Festival
Gold Medal, 2002 World Beer Championships
World Champion, Gold Medal, 2001 World Beer Championships
Gold Medal, 1998 World Beer Championships
Silver Medal, 1997 World Beer Championships
Gold Medal, 1996 World Beer Championships
Bronze Medal, 1996 World Beer Cup, Colorado
World Champion, Platinum Medal, 1994 World Beer Championships
Gold Medal, 1993 Great American Beer Festival
Gold Medal, 1991 Great American Beer Festival