REVIEW: Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Location: Cleveland, OH
Style: Porter
ABV: 5.8%
IBU: 37
Appearance: Solid Dark Brown with Creamy Tan Head
Aroma: Roasted Malts, Coffee Beans, Caramel, Dark Chocolate
Flavor: Roasted Malts, Bold Hops, Coffee, Dark Chocolate
Availability: Year-round — Bottle & Draft
Pairs With: BBQ Ribs, Steaks, Oysters, Chocolate

The names of beers are sometimes whimsical, playing on the names of styles or ingredients, or using pop culture references. Great Lakes Brewing Company has gone the other way, naming its beers to pay tribute to their city. They are proud Clevelanders, and it comes through in their beers and the names they give them.

Great Lakes as a whole is a fairly unique company, established in 1988 by two brothers in the middle of Cleveland, as the first microbrewery in the state of Ohio. They brew all of their beers in accordance with the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, not jumping on the bandwagon of outrageous flavors, simply brewing great beers using limited ingredients.

Most representative of their outlook on beer and their city is their award-winning Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. The name is taken from the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a freighter that sank in 1975. The majority of the freighter crew, all of whom went down with the ship, were from the Cleveland area, and the brewery felt it appropriate to pay tribute to them with this brew. Supported by the families of the victims, this porter was originally released in 1988 and has been the flagship beer of the brewery ever since.


Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing Co.

The beer comes in a bottle with a painting of the Edmund Fitzgerald on the label, charging through a storm. It pours out a solid dark brown, with a big, creamy tan head on it. The head dissolves to leave lacing down the glass, as well as some bits floating on the top of your beer the whole way down.


The aroma is heavy on roasted malts, thick and smoky, with a hint of burnt caramel. The roasted dark malts also give off a scent of roasted coffee beans and a touch of dark chocolate. The aroma gains depth as the beer warms, releasing the chocolate and coffee notes to create a fuller nose-full. It is overall surprisingly sweet.


The taste is roasted malts, slightly sweet up front. It has a very good balance, with the same notes as the aroma – coffee, dark chocolate and caramel. There is a bold hop presence as well, earthy and piney, imparting strong bitterness that keeps the porter from being too sweet. As it warms up, some notes of dark fruits begin to develop, but do not take any prominence.

Tasting Notes

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is medium-bodied, leaning towards the heavy end of the spectrum. There is more carbonation than average, giving the beer a very spritely, jumpy feel in the mouth. It also manages to be a bit creamy, despite the carbonation. The aftertaste is slightly bitter, and it dries your mouth out a bit. It is drinkable, not as heavy as robust porters, with an alcohol-by-volume percentage and a light enough body that allow for it to be drank almost as a session beer.

Overall, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is an incredibly well-made porter, and is a great example of the style – so good, in fact, that the Beer Judge Certification Program often cites it as the most stylistically correct representative porter around. It is heavily awarded, with 9 Gold Medals, 1 Platinum Medal, and 2 World Champion awards at the World Beer Championships. It also does well in competitions in the United States, with 3 Gold, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze Medal at the Great American Beer Festival.

As stated earlier, Great Lakes Brewing Company is fairly unique. They are often overlooked in the craft beer market due to their simplicity and the fact that Ohio doesn’t get much respect as far as craft brewing goes. They are not a company that immediately rolls off the tongue of many craft beer lovers, but they should be – they are the 18th largest craft brewer in the country, and all of their year-round beers have received numerous medals throughout the years.

They are also heavily invested in the community and the local environment. Every beer the make has a connection that is tied into their home town and its history, including their award-winning Burning River Pale Ale, named for the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River. I would highly recommend you give this American Pale Ale a taste, as it’s a very tasty example of what the pale ale style is all about. They provide leftover, out-of-date Edmund Fitzgerald porter to an ice-cream company to be made into Edmund Fitzgerald Chocolate Chunk ice cream. They source many ingredients locally for their brewpub, and compost the leftovers. They provide their spent grains to local farmers and bakers, and participate in sustainability-oriented events around the city.

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Jeff Flowers

About Author

Jeff Flowers has been a self-described beer geek for over a decade now. When he's not chasing his daughter around, you can usually find him drinking a fresh brew and wasting too much of his time on both Google+ & Twitter.

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