Thursday, January 26, 2012

Astonishing Tales of the Sea

It's the end of another long day. The kids are asleep and we put out the cat. Time to sit down, have a beer, and ponder the deeper questions of life. Tonight, while sipping on a Great Lakes beer we ponder the ultimate bizarro question: Which is better - Edmund Fitzgerald or Edmund Fitzgerald?

By this I mean, of course, the beer versus the song. I know. I just blew your mind.

The Beer
Typically, a picture accompanies beer reviews as a sort of psuedo-verification that I'm actually drinking the beer and not just stealing lines from Beer Advocate. My digital camera's four-year-old memory card is full (after awhile you assume these things never reach capacity) and I'm too lazy to delete a few pictures to make room for a beer that's relatively easy to find so just take my word for once.

The handcrafted porter, Edmund Fitzgerald, is simply one of the finer porters out there. It starts slightly bitter, comes through the middle with a malty, coffee flavor and finishes a bit sweet. The brewers at Great Lakes get everything they can out of the barley, hopes, yeast and water. Sticking to the "Bavarian Purity Law" can often result in boring beer. You won't find that here.

The Song
The song is technically "The Wreck of the..." but let's not argue semantics. Made famous by the Seinfeld bit ("I think Gordon Lightfoot was the boat"), we all know the song is a tribute to the boat that sank in November 1975 in Lake Superior. It was the second biggest hit of Mr. Lightfoot's two hits. [Editors note: despite the lyrics, the Edmund Fitzgerald was actually headed for Detroit when she sank.] The History Channel eventually covered the search for the wreck and the recovery of the ship's bell, which rang upon breaking the waters (probably to be expected but still gives me chills).

None of that matters. This song is so great because it's the first song that really made my heart break so it's also the first song that helped me understand that music is more than music. The song is also a great story - the efforts of the captain, the courage of the crew, the wonder of November gales on the Great Lakes. I still get kind of queasy thinking about the cook saying he can't feed the men. I've never been much of a sailor but this song (and Deadliest Catch) help me understand that it takes balls.

The verdict
In true Motor Trend-type fashion, we call this one a draw. Both are outstanding but neither would likely be here without the actual Edmund Fitzgerald. So, crack open a handcrafted porter from Cleveland, turn on some Gordon Lightfoot, and think about all of those who gave their lives, particularly those 29 brave souls who traveled aboard the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald.

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