One of the downsides of organizing a huge, nationwide blind-tasting of a classic beer style such as pale ale is that there’s no perfect time of the year to host it. No matter when we chose to host what turned into an 83-pale-ale jamboree, there would inevitably be some great beers left out. Even beers that are produced year-round aren’t immune to this—get unlucky and catch a brewery between batches, and they simply aren’t able to participate. Other times, production hits a snag or is somehow delayed, and the beers eventually do arrive at the Paste office … too late to participate.
That’s what happened with 18th Street’s Jade, a beer that I’ve heard a fair bit about and was recommended by a few of our readers of the main beer subreddit, r/beer. Perhaps being late was good fortune, though—now they’ve got a standalone review out of the deal.
You may have heard about 18th Street in the last few years. Situated in the rather unlikely craft beer burg of Gary, Indiana, they’ve been making waves and have slowly become one of those “IT” breweries that people make a point out of bringing to bottle shares and similar beer geek peacocking functions. People speak particularly highly of their sours and barrel-aged offerings—I can’t speak too strongly to that, but their barrel-aged Devil’s Spear Barleywine did perform extremely well in our recent blind barleywine tasting, and I can verify it’s damn good stuff. It’s a brewery that was born out of collaboration with two of my other favorite Chicago-area beer makers, Pipeworks and Spiteful, so I’ve certainly had my eye on them for a while.
Jade, though, isn’t some big barrel-aged monster. It’s is a classical American pale ale in construction, but with a twist: It specifically features Pacific Jade hops. They’re a New Zealand style I’ve had as part of blends in various “southern hemisphere” pale ales and IPAs, but I don’t believe I’ve ever had a single-hop Pacific Jade beer before this.
It’s immediately a distinctive and unusual pale ale on the nose. There’s a strong, sticky pine/wood note, but also a lot of other things in play at the same time—it’s simultaneously spicy, and herbal in a way that reminds me of Thai basil. There’s also a sweet, orangey citrus workin at the same time, but it’s never the first thing I focus on, each time I stick my nose in the glass. Rather, I keep being drawn back to the qualities that I don’t often experience in pale ale.
On the palate, you’re greeted with lots of herbal flavors, and a bit of a musty maltiness, with mid-strength caramel and more toasted malt flavors as well. Hops come along behind with pine, spice and orange citrus once again, medium in bitterness but building to a significant level in the finish. It really is a unique palette of flavors, and one I haven’t experienced too often. It’s odd to think that it’s a single hop beer—it feels more like multiple, contrasting hops battling for control.
In the end, this strikes me as a somewhat difficult pale ale to rate, having not experienced the full range of Pacific Jade before. I may have to go out and see if I can acquire Green Flash’s Pacific Jade beer and put the two up against each other to see what similarities and differences can be detected. Until then, I’ll just have to call this one the best Pacific Jade beer I’ve ever tasted.
Brewery: 18th Street Brewery
City: Gary, IN
Style: American pale ale
Availability: Limited, 12 oz cans
Jim Vorel is Paste’s news editor. You can follow him on Twitter.