I've always wanted to make a big, memorable, complex stout. I also like to stretch beer styles. Sometimes that's by merging styles and sometimes it's by using unique ingredients to give a beer a twist.

In a previous life I'd done that by using buckwheat in an imperial stout. I never got to taste the finished product before moving down the road. So, when it came time to revisit the idea of a bold stout for Gemini I had to rely on my memory of tasting that first batch from the fermenter and think of where I wanted to take it.

One of those decisions was that it had to be bigger. Another was that I wanted it to have more layers of flavor. I wanted there to be different nuances that could be picked up each time someone drinks this beer. Doing so without muddling flavors is a big challenge. Ingredients and flavors needed to compliment each other instead of clashing.

One way I decided to differentiate this beer was by using honey and maple syrup. Not just any honey or maple syrup though. I spent a fair amount of time researching different kinds of honey. There are a LOT! I weeded out obvious ones based on the profile. For example one got nixed for having 'buttery' in the description - not so good for a beer. Blueberry or blackberry honey was considered briefly. After narrowing down to the top six, I ordered samples of every kind of honey I had on the final list. From there it was time to break out the spoon and give myself a toothache in the name of science. Buckwheat honey seemed logical to go with the malted buckwheat. The honey was intense though. Earthy, hay-like. Not fun. Bamboo honey though. That was the ticket. Rich and molassesy without going over the top. Meadow maple honey was selected for a light vanilla, marshmallow and maple flavor. mmmm syrup

Next up was the maple syrup. I ended up googling "best maple syrup". Use the best, right? One of the results was a Yankee magazine article with the top five maple syrups (surprisingly from New Hampshire rather than Vermont). I learned more than I ever thought I needed or wanted to know about maple syrup. I picked the three with the flavors I liked the most - ranging from vanilla to smoky.

And now for the act of randomness - I had bought a bag of spelt for a different project. This became a last minute addition as I scrapped that idea. I've used spelt in Biere de garde and saison. It has a soft biscuit maltiness with a little bit of hazelnut. That should go well with the buckwheat and generally round everything out.

This beer will get aged in second use rum barrels. If all goes according to plan we'll get to do a barrel vertical within this batch. I'd like to do a release of one barrel every three months for a year.