For a beer that started out as a bit of a joke, Dirty Hippie Dark Wheat created by Palisade Brewing Company (PBC) is seriously beloved on the Western Slope of Colorado.
At the nearby Supilizio Field, where the Colorado Rockies’ Minor League team plays ball, Dirty Hippie outsells such heavy-hitter drafts like Bud and Coors. Brewmaster Danny Wilson recalls there was a demand—actually an insistence—from customers for a good local wheat beer. In response, Wilson offered up an under-attenuated (sweeter) brew of chocolate and caramel malts. Dirty Hippie, both complex and smooth, became the first beer PBC distributed on the Western Slope in cans.
Christened Dirty Hippie Dark Wheat for its brown hue, the new beer was designed to accommodate a slice of orange, as customers are apt to adding to wheat beers. “I’m not really big on fruit in beer,” Wilson explained. “I was kind of fooling with my core of regulars with the color, but the joke was on me when they drank it up and wanted more.”
It seems almost destiny that a brewery would emerge no matter what under the face of the Book Cliffs, an imposing network of arid canyons and peaks just north of Palisade, Colo. Watered by the Colorado River and home to wild mustangs, the Book Cliffs are topped of with a layer of strata that—after a glass or two on the PBC’s covered patio—looks a lot like a towering foamy head of a cold beer rising up in a robin egg blue sky.
Wilson is faithful to “rock solid traditional styles,” and aims to make beer that does not stray too far from one side or the other of the flavor spectrum. As he puts it, “I brew beer I want to drink. While I don’t want to shock our customers with what I offer, it’s my job to make flavor.”
While the chemistry of brewing is part of the nuts and bolts of the craft he knows, Wilson will not hesitate to ignore the chemistry if the art (hops) of a brew tells him he is onto something special. He talks about hops in depth, ticking off a list of his favorites (Citra is at the top) and his backup plans for any scarcities in supply.
As with most brewmasters, he is wildly happy in his work. Wilson finds that beer (both his and that brewed by others) is inspirational, so he keeps an open mind. “Every once in a while I’ll drink a beer from another brewer and think, “Wow, I want to be this good.”
In addition to the signature lineup, PBC’s special releases have made quite an impression on their fans. Love Potion #3, a German dunkelweizen, was created for the brewery’s third anniversary. With a slightly sour splash of cloves and hints of banana, this beer is worth the trip.
Wilson likes to release his aged seasonals (often aged in locally produced wine and bourbon barrels) when the high desert temperature goes over 100°F, which draws in the locals and tourists as well. “Cold beer tastes really good on a hot day, right?” he reasons.
A year-round kitchen at PBC serves limited, but tasty pub fare that pays homage to the sacred principle that craft beer enhances food. In the works is a new Colorado-sourced dark ale named Colo-Radical. Much to the joy of beer drinkers on the Western Slope, Colo-Radical will soon be PBC’s second locally distributed canned beer.