Special Herbs (Seasonal)
Upright Brewing Company

Special Herbs (Seasonal)Special Herbs (Seasonal)
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Scottish Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale
Ranked #1
Ranked #645
4.4 | pDev: 6.36%
Upright Brewing Company
Oregon, United States
Special Herbs (Seasonal)Special Herbs (Seasonal)
Notes: 2013 Notes:
This version of Special Herbs is composed of Reggae Junkie Gruit aged in Old Tom Gin barrels and wine barrels that previously fermented Fantasia, a peach beer.

2014 Notes:
A unique brew incorporating wine and gin barrel aging to a farmhouse style gruit. The recipe uses lemongrass, sweet and bitter orange peels, hyssop, and Sichuan peppercorns. A bit of spelt in the grist helps maintain some body, although the Special Herbs leans in a bright and dry direction.
Reviews: 26 | Ratings: 201 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Roustabout
4.41/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

“Pacific” version.

Best gruit I’ve laid my hands on. The shiso etc. doesn’t pop out particularly, but adds to a strong, lacy herb profile atop a light crackery base. Lovely Druid juice.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.07/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

i absolutely love this brewery, and i am so glad to see some of their bottles popping up around colorado again. this is a unique one, more sour than the others that have come around recently, and fashioned as a gruit, without hops and using a unique mix of herbs instead. this one has a bunch of cool stuff, but it comes together really well, floral but dried, peppery and lightly medicinal, bitter but clean, really clever and interesting beer. its also aged in gin and wine barrels from what i gather, and i do get the juniper aspect, especially in the aroma. there is a clean woodiness to this too, almost new oak, light vanilla and earth, lumber and sweetness, unifying and nice with all the herbs. this is nicely bitter but also has some freshness, and is maltier than i would have expected, a crystal clear light copper or dark honey color with a tall white head. the sourness is what throws me a little bit, i didnt expect this to be wild so much as a saison like a lot of their others are, but there is some serious citrusy acidity to this, not overly sour, but definitely packing a pucker. floral later on, a little mouth tingling from the szechuan pepper, spicy, grassy, and like nothing else out there. great carbonation and a slow fading finish where i can appreciate each element all over again. these guys continue to fascinate me, hoping this is only the beginning of their beers showing up in colorado...

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Photo of Marius
4/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared at August THT. Hazy raw yellow with no head. Notes of vinegar, spices, lemongrass, ginger, peppers. Medium body, light carbonation and a tart finish.

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4.4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Upright Special Herbs (2016, Old Tom Gin, ex-Fantasia, and brandy casks)

A: Bone white head of about two fingers crowns this perhaps most famous of gruits; it quickly fades amidst the fizzing of very active carbonation. The beer itself is a gorgeous, hazy gold, brimming with brilliant orange hues. Lacing is unfortunately spotty, however, and it and retention could use work. These failings may be due to acidity or barrel-aging or both. 4/5

A: Bright citrus fruitiness is the star here, backed by plenty of interesting herbaceous notes. White pepper, mint, and rosemary are suggested, and juniper is unmistakeable, yet there is a deeper fruitiness that shows as it warms, something akin to overripe peaches and even darker stone fruits. There is maybe even some candied fig and berries in the very back end. This smells quite sweet, but not in a cloying way. It is difficult to pick out many specific notes as they all blur together, but it is very appetizing. 4.5/5

T: While it seems that Upright largely followed their typical saison recipe and substituted herbs for hops, that is certainly not a dig since they do saisons oh-so-well. A familiar light tartness and Brett-y funky quality greets the drinker right away, very white wine in its execution and could in fact be the wine barrels themselves. Then sweet citrus, light mint, sweet alcohol, floral white pepper, overripe peach, and darker stone fruits and berries mingle nearly inseparably across the palate. Juniper from the gin is there to make sure things do not get too sweet, and spelt makes an appearance just as the beer dries up a little. The aftertaste is candied orange rind and fig, plus a little oak. Again, it is quite difficult to parse out all the complexity here as it just blends so effortlessly. 4.5/5

M: This drinks full and sticky with a playful acidity and enough soft, natural carbonation to keep it from becoming a chore. The pucker level is low, almost nonexistent. The hyssop leaves a very pleasant, cooling minty feeling that really builds as the glass empties. It would be nice to see this a bit drier in the finish and with higher carbonation, both of which could probably be achieved with a little cellaring or a little more time barrel-fermenting. 3.75/5

O: This is the first gruit I have ever drank, and I am unsure how closely Upright comes to stylistic guidelines, so I have rated this against what a saison might be with herbs instead of hops. The style seems to be very fluid, so I do not think this is a problem. While I would like this a little drier (especially rated against saisons), the sheer complexity and uniqueness makes up for it. There is so much to like here, and it is all a bit obscured by how perfectly Upright have blended and balanced the beer's many components; this is a beer to be contemplated and enjoyed over a long period of time. Upright somehow remains vastly underrated and under-hyped. Please let us keep it that way. Pair with MF Doom's "Special Herbs: The Box Set" (Creative and unexpected, huh?) 4.5/5

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Photo of wedge
4.38/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Date unknown...probably 2014

Hazy gold under a soft, frothy head that fizzles to a sticky ring. Funky, woody spice in the nose tinted with colorful fresh citrus. Peppercorns, lemon, lime, damp earth, berries, musty basement, graham crackers, very light gin. Flavor is a delicious balance of lemony tartness and aromatic herbs and spices. A beautiful blend of flavors. Vibrant citrus, flowers, mellow spice, creamy orange, and a bit of wood. Medium-light, frothy feel with some pucker on the finish. A delightfuly tart lemon/lime, funky treat. Thank you Patrick!

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Photo of Shippy
4.05/5  rDev -8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle. Pours a light golden orange with a little cloudiness and bubbles flowing to the top, much like champagne. Smell is sour with citrus and a bit of spice/pepper, and a little funk. Flavor is very bright with lots of orange and a bit of pepper with some gin notes present. The orangey sweetness is noticeable on the sides of the tongue, while the pepper and carbonation dance on the tip of the tongue. The feel is more full than I expected, but there is still a lot of carbonation that keeps it light. Overall this is a great wild saison with nice sweetness and good complimentary flavors.

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Photo of BarrytheBear
4.24/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Oak, light citrus fruits, very pleasant gin barrel presence. Not sure if the underlying spicing has faded, or the gin barrel swallows up their subtleties, but either way they're faint. As is though, it's a pleasant beer for sure.

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Photo of draheim
4.31/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750mL into a tulip. Pours a clear golden color with minimal head, lazy carbonation. Looks almost like apple juice.

Aroma is vinous and sour. Tart green apples, light acidity.

Taste follows nose. Pale biscuity malt, tart green apples, white wine grapes, oak. Nicely crisp and sour.

Mouthfeel is crisp and light, dry finish.

Overall a really nice sour gruit/saison with just enough wine influence to make it interesting without being overpowering.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.29/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle shared by Jack, thanks man.

This one pours a cloudy and super turbid orange, almost looks like a smoothie, with a small head, and a good amount of lacing.

Smells like gin, heavy citrus, juniper, with some other earthy aromas.

This is definitely one of the more unique beers I've had. It's relatively sour, with a really great herbal character to it. I won't be super adept and say I can pick out the lemon grass, and the peppercorns, and the hyssop, whatever that is, but it is very herbal, piney, and minty, which is an enjoyable twist on the usual sour.

This is medium bodied, juicy and slightly creamy, with a moderate level of carbonation.

Really cool beer here, I'd love to get a bottle for myself.

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Photo of cpetrone84
4/5  rDev -9.1%

Pour is golden amber, light haze, with a tight off white head. Nose is sweet, white grapes and golden fruits combine with a boozy note and a moderate spice to it. Taste is much brighter and more integrated. Strong peach notes come through, the booze is integrated rather than another contrasting flavor. Strong herbal flowery spice throughout the finish. Light body, enough carbonation, and a fairly dry finish.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.35/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750ml bottle into tulip.

A: Pours a hazy apricot golden with a large, very active and fizzy, off-white head that slowly fizzed away into a thick and soft looking film. A few wisps of stringy lace were left down the glass.
S: As expected, the nose is a complex bouquet of herbs and spices. I get earthy, green, sage-like notes, herb garden, rosemary, lavender, juniper, straw, and spice. I also get notes of black pepper, mineral water, salt, fresh laundry, vinous wine barrel, and maybe some stone fruits such as peach and apricot coming through as well.
T: Herbs, spices, and golden fruits mix together to create a light, fruity, and spicy beer. Apricot, grains of paradise, juniper, and salt stand out to me, with lavender, pepper, lemon grass, citrus zest, straw and cracked grains coming through in the finish. The aftertaste is crisp and lightly tart, with lingering flavors of wine barrel and mild juniper gin.
M: Bright and scrubbing carbonation really froths up on my palate and brushes my tongue. The body is medium-full, and while this beer finishes dry and crisp, it has a nice chew to it.
O: A very complex and delicious beer. The ingredients and barrel aging all worked together perfectly to give this a very well-rounded and unique flavor. Definitely work checking out.

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Photo of PPOmaha
4.31/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Aroma: strong hints of gueze: tart yogurt, earth, lemon.

Appearance: golden with amber highlights brilliantly clear.

Flavor: low neutral malt flavor. Lemon, dirt, mineral. No DMS, no diacetyl. Awesome. Very dry finish.

Mouthfeel: bright high co2.

Overall: really good. I can't pick out herbs but it is damn good.

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Photo of ThePorterSorter
4.26/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

The beer pours a slightly hazy yellow-orange with no head or sediment. The nose is subtle and herbal - predominantly highlights the lemongrass, but also has notes of gin, yeast, and oak. The taste has a mild herbal quality, modest lemony tartness, and a slight bite from the peppercorns in the finish. This beer is light and refreshing with approachable herbal qualities, easy drinkability that's perfect for summer (despite its relatively complex flavor profile), and a citrusy tart, slightly bitter, and semi-dry finish. This beer has a tremendous amount of interesting flavors, but is pulled off very well and is definitely a beer I'd enjoy again in the future.

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Photo of Axnjxn
4.67/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

750ml bottle into a teku glass. awesome label!

pours a dark golden color with a nice head. smell is damn amazing. tons of herbs..mint..funk...some sweetness. just so much going on. the taste is somehow better and even a bit different. starts out a tad tart but then after that is a mixture of funk with a tad gin like characteristic to it. ends with fruity notes that i just love. medium bodied, mild carbonation.

overall an exquisite beer that i feel lucky to have tried.

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Photo of corby112
3.43/5  rDev -22%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Shout out to Alan for sharing.

Pours a hazy dark golden yellow color with a half finger white head that quickly settles into a thin ring. Spotty lacing left behind.  

Musty, earthy aroma with funky bugs and dry, earthy oak along with autumnal spice. juniper and gin barrel character faintly coming in.  Brett and oak presence is strong with a decent amount of earthiness and musty funk.  The gin barrel really stands out but I'm not getting much peach or red wine character.

On the lighter end of medium body with dry puckering funk and a very prominent brett presence countered by spicy ginger, sweet juniper and earthy barrel notes.  Lots of dry oak and damp, earthy funk dominating the flavor.  Again, I'm picking up spices and wild yeast but not much peach or wine character.  Very dry but has decent flavor especially from the wild yeast, light fruit and gin.

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Photo of stakem
4.18/5  rDev -5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Review from a couple months back. 750ml bottle into a snifter. The brew appears a clouded yellow color with a white cap that retains well leaving some patchy lace on the glass.

The aroma is lemony lactic with some wheat grain underneath. A mild spiced aspect but the brew's smell is enough to start me salivating with a wild, almost tropical feel to it.

The taste is tart and lemony lactic with a bitey almost acidity component that never goes over the top too much. A little bit of a garden herbal aspect is lightly grassy.

This is a light bodied brew with a modest amount of carbonation. Very easy drinking, I could kill a bottle of this pretty regularly if I had easy access to it.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
4.29/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Clear yellow with a small white head. A little leggy and a thin collar.

Smell - Wow it's bizarre but incredible. Spices. Bright acidity. Some maltiness. Weird herbal and spicy character.

Taste - Follows the smell. Herbal. Sharp tang. Slightly sweet pale malt. Oak. I'm not a gin drinker, so I don't know what's coming from the base beer and from the barrel.

Mouthfeel - Medium body. Slightly sweet. Low sourness.

Overall - I don't know what to say about this except that it's awesome and I don't know why.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.09/5  rDev -7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle pour at Woodshop 8 held at The Hermosillo in Los Angeles, CA.

Pours a murky orange with a foamy beige head that fades to nothing. No lacing on the drink down. Smell is slightly sour and tart with malt, grain, herb, and spice aromas. Taste is much the same with sour and tart fruit and herbal flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of acidity on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer with a great sour and herbal flavor that makes this one quite easy to drink.

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Photo of Resuin
4.94/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a 750 mL bottle into a tulip. I think this is a couple months old or so.

Appearance: Pours a translucent gold/amber with a very mild red hue to it. A finger of white head fades very quickly to nothing but a ring around the rim of the glass.

Smell: Wow. Big juniper berry, mild brett, cranberry, green apple, peach, ginger, white grapes. Lots of amazing floral notes - hard to describe them all. Fantastic. Who needs to drink this? I smelled it for a good 15 minutes before taking a sip.

Taste: Awesome. The aromas come through terrifically in the taste. Lots of sour berries and fruits: juniper, cranberry, grapes, lime, peach, ginger, green apple. A nice, mild amount of sour and brett. Quite dry finish. Very complex and delicious. Alcohol is all masked.

Mouth-feel: Low to medium carbonation (but definitely enough) with a light, dry body. Very crisp and dry.

Overall: I had high expectations for this as a big lover of gin and they were exceeded. I wish I could get this more often. I love the berry flavor additions to the more standard light gueuze-like qualities. The gin and wine barrels have made this beer absolutely outstanding. Very complex, very well balanced, and outlandishly refreshing and delicious.

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Photo of DefenCorps
4.64/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Thank you, Brian.

Pouring a mildly hazy orange with a dense, white head with excellent retention and gorgeous lacing, this is a very nice looking beer. The nose is exquisite. The gin botanicals are incredibly bright and fragrant, with the juniper and orange peel being particularly noteworthy. Bright lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are present, as is an array of floral notes with touches of lavender, hibiscus and rose. Sourness is modest. A fruity peach note is also present. The raw, rustic, earthy, herbal root notes from the gruit are noticeable as well, and really do complement the rest of the nose.

As good as the nose is, the palate is simply outstanding. Bright lemongrass with juniper and a touch of allspice follows up to form the opening salvo. This is followed by citrus peel, ripe lemons, orange blossom honey, fresh peaches and a clean, refreshing sourness that's mildly lactic and moderately citric. Drying on the finish with an earthy, mildly musty funk, this is great. Maybe it is the beer's youth, but even the Brett notes, something so hard to do just right, work brilliantly. There's none of the clove phenols that would clash horribly with the rest of the palate, and even the tropical notes are tastefully done. The sichuan peppercorns add a touch of floral character to the finish.

Using gin barrels for a gruit is something that on the face of it seems a no-brainer, but is seldom done and ne'er so well. It's been a while since I was this impressed with a beer. Brilliant and inspired.

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Photo of HuskyinPDX
4.46/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottle opened on 9.4.13

A - Pours a cloudy, light orange with a fine very light tan head with decent retention.

S - Very spicy and floral. Lavender, rose, I'm not sure, but it is nice whatever it is.

T - Nice and soft subtle floral flavors with and acidic-barrel finish.

D - Good carbonation with a light body.

O - Floral and oaky-barrel. Light and very tasty.

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Photo of inlimbo77
4.04/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

750ml, 2013
Hill Farmstead wine glass

A: Hazy bright yellow orange. Thin layer of bright white head. Sticks around a while. Seems like there is good carb.

S: At first I had some Gueuze like smells. That funk. That horse blanket. Wet hay. White grape. Green apple. There is some herb notes. Maybe mint? Floral notes.

T: Nose is certainly different than taste. There is slight tartness up front. It doesn't cut in as much as a full blown sour. There is that white grape character. Not as dry as a sour. Finish is clean just not as dry.

M: Light to medium bodied.

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Photo of FondueVoodoo
4.24/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Poured a hazy gold with a subtle apricot hue. Poured with just a slight white head that disappear quickly to just a single bubble ring.

S: Bright scent of fresh tart apples and sharp peach and funky yeast. Scent is reminiscent of a bouquet garni, a mix of savoury herbs, juniper, rosemary and ginger. Let this one warm a bit and the scent blossoms.

T: Dry and tart with flavours of cider apples & tart peaches. Herbaceous flavours like the scent, fresh rosemary, juniper and other assorted savoury herbs.

M: Not surprisingly the mouth feel is dry, tart and refreshing with just a low level of carbonation. Very refreshing and clean.

O: A terrific scent and flavour that's clean, crisp and refreshing. The interesting notes of the herbs bloom as the brew warms, well worth the wait. Would pair well with BBQ fish and a summer patio.

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Photo of Rutager
4.33/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Appearance. Pours a hazy gold with a half finger of white head that fades to a ring fairly quickly.

Smell. Funky barrel, limes, juniper berries, floral herbs, fairly sour. Interesting and reminiscent of last night's BA Flora.

Taste. Sour with some light peach, juniper and oak, savory herbs (maybe thyme and a tiny bit of rosemary), lemon and other citrus fruits. Much better (for me, anyways) than the BA Flora from last night.

Mouthfeel. Medium-light body, medium low carbonation. Very thirst quenching and crisp.

Overall. Light and refreshing with plenty of subtle complexity. A winner for sure, very much enjoying it.

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Photo of John_M
4.47/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Very happy I was able to snag a bottle of this impressive, delicious beer.

The beer pours a striking gold color with fairly decent head retention and light lacing. The nose is impressive and intriguing, and I know the first thought that crossed my mind is "wow, this smells like something from Fantome" (which is high praise in my book!). There's some light clove and honey as well, but the beer is dominated by lemon zest and some intriguing, underlying spice (maybe some sage and some grains of paradise? Maybe some lemon basil?). The flavor profile is dominated by the sour component, but it's not at all over done, and there's still plenty of spice, light clove and light honey (the beer has something of a light ranier cherry flavor component). Mouthfeel is pretty light, and the beer comes across as very thirst quenching. Also, there's some sort of mouth watering component in this beer (in the aroma profile I would guess), and you literally can't wait to take the next sip of this excellent, well made beer. Alcohol is pretty much unnoticeable, but that's to be expected in a 5.7% abv. beer that has this much flavor.

This is just flat out excellent!

Edit from 8/18. Just tried the 2018 version, and really, nothing has changed since 2013. Some vintages are better than others (the sour component has been a bit much in some years), but this is an impressive beer every year. Just tried the 2018 version on tap at Tin Bucket today and fell in love all over again. This is just an exceptional beer from Upright.

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Special Herbs (Seasonal) from Upright Brewing Company
Beer rating: 96 out of 100 with 201 ratings