A quick look at the top-rated beers on Untappd and you will quickly realize that the adjunct stout and the hazy IPA stand along on top of hype mountain. Of the 31 beers at the top of the app, 29 are one of those two styles of beer. The two that buck the trend are old school holdouts Pliney The Younger and King Henry.
Both categories have a shortlist of breweries that frequent the top end of the list but on the stout side Bottle Logic from Southern California and Cigar City from Florida are two that are known for making world-class bottle share hero stouts. With long standing heavy weight champs like Hunahpu and Fundamental Observation it makes perfect sense that the two breweries would collaborate on a beer.
Criminal Commission is big rich sweet imperial stout brewed with banana, vanilla and cinnamon aged in rum barrels and it was released as part of Cigar City’s Catador Club in 2018. This beer has all of the elements for a frenzy inducing hype whale: it is a 13 percent ABV pastry stout, it is barrel-aged it is filled with various sweet adjuncts, it is a limited run member’s only bottle and finally it comes from two very well-respected breweries.
I almost feel guilty about opening it by myself on a random Tuesday.
The beer pours jet black with a thin khaki head that dissipates to a ring pretty quickly, something I could just copy and paste for 90 percent of the stout review I have done over the years. Criminal Commission has a big nose and the dark rum barrel is the first thing that jumps out of the glass. Sweet chocolate, vanilla, coffee and cinnamon are also very noticeable which all play together well making up a deliciously decadent bouquet. Knowing there is banana in the beer I am hunting for it on the aroma and I get faint hints of it but that may be more power of suggestion as if I had this beer blind, I would never guess there was banana in it. With or without the banana the beer smells great and I am anxious to take a sip.
I take a quick sip and immediately utter the words, “that is intense.” It is definitely a flavor punch but a very welcome punch. The beer is thick and viscous and coats my mouth in a way that I know I am going to be tasting this beer for quite a while after I finish it. Like the nose the rum barrel is one of the more distinct components. Rum barrel-aged beers can be tricky to pull off in my opinion. Most of them bring a lot of heat from the booze along with a drying tannic character but fail in expressing the fantastically sweet rum character that one would hope for. This beer comes pretty close. I get a dark rum note but there is also a bit of the harsh booze and the tannins arrive in the finish drying it out a bit. Bourbon barrels seem to have a much bigger sweet spot but if a brewer can pull off a good rum barrel-aged beer it adds a little something unique to the beer.
Unlike the sweet chocolate I got in the aroma it tastes much more in line with a dark chocolate with coffee and cinnamon and a rich molasses note lingers into the finish. I get faint hints of overripe banana throughout the sip and it is a touch more apparent that in the nose but still not a dominant character.