5 Questions with Justin Leigh of Dwinell Country Ales

Dwinell Country Ales is the best new brewery in Washington that you haven’t been to yet. Owned by Justin and Jocelyn Leigh, they’re located in Goldendale, WA – about another hour east of Hood River on the Washington side. The conception of Dwinell Country Ales happened even further east than that when Justin met Jocelyn in Chicago while he was in law school and she was in graduate school for vocal performance (Jocelyn is an opera singer by training).

“Jocelyn and I started playing around with mixed-cultures, brett, wild captures of yeast, and barrel-aging on a small scale. Our passion soon took on a life of its own,” shares Justin. “We liked the idea that we could easily make these kinds of beers and, in our opinion, do so with a level of quality that rivaled the commercial examples we tried. One thing led to another, and we thought, why not start our own brewery?”

Jocelyn’s family is from Vancouver, WA, so The Couve was originally their target area for opening Dwinell. But owning their property was an important step in the their business plan, so budgets led them outside of Clark County. Goldendale, WA fit the model in the sense that it was not too far outside of the Vancouver/Portland area, so they could still attract visitors and self-distribution to those cities would still be a viable option.

This is chapter eleven in a monthly-ish series in which we check in with brewers on what they are drinking, eating, enjoying and what’s currently bubbling away in their fermenters.

Justin and Jocelyn Leigh pouring Dwinell Country Ales at Kona Brewers Festival in February 2018.

After learning their origin story, I had 5 questions for Justin:

1) What is life like in Goldendale and how have you connected to the community there?

“Goldendale is a friendly, laid-back community with a lot more going on than people realize. I like to tell people, it’s both in the middle of nowhere and the middle of everything. The local community has shown nothing but a tremendous amount of support for our brewery. At our Goldendale tasting room, we have a core group of local patrons. At any given time this winter, Jocelyn and I personally knew anywhere from 90% to 100% of the folks at the bar. In addition to connecting with the community in our tasting room, I worked as a substitute teacher for the Goldendale school district, I’m deeply involved with the Greater Goldendale Chamber of Commerce and, recently, I was elected to Goldendale City Council.”

2) What are your favorite beers right now (Dwinell Country Ales or others)?

“I’m a big fan of Ghost Town, our super sessionable (3.2%) mixed-culture, Berlin-style wheat ale that we brewed with 100% Mecca Grade Estate Malt from Madras, OR. We also recently collaborated with Brothers Cascadia Brewing in Vancouver to make Cascadia Crossing, a delicious mixed-culture pale ale that’s heavily dry-hopped with Rakau, Vic Secret, and Motueka. Apart from our brewery, Goldendale is a bit of a beer desert so I find myself gravitating toward all of the awesome local wine, especially from Maryhill in Goldendale and Syncline in Lyle. I’m also a huge fan of Rack & Cloth cidery from Mosier OR.”

3) What sort of tunes are on the playlist in the brewhouse at Dwinell?

“It might seem somewhat surprising or even blasphemous, but I tend not to listen to music while working in the brewery. I’ve actually gotten some complaints about this from other brewers when they’ve visited and from folks that have helped me cleaning kegs or on brew days. I’d rather be able to hear everything that’s going on around me. I find it’s rather meditative to listen to the mechanical hums and whirs of the brewhouse.”

4) What’s new on tap at Dwinell and where can folks find it around the Portland Metro Area?

“We most recently tapped Red Handed, a mixed-culture raw ale that we brewed with copious amounts of Mecca Grade’s Opal 44 and then dry-hopped with Idaho 7. Between the acidity produced from our culture, the citrusy fruit notes from the hops, and the toffee malt flavors, it tastes like green apples and peanut butter. It’s super tasty and unlike beer I’ve ever had. We’re also gearing up to release Gift Horse, a New England-style IPA that we made with Trap Door in Vancouver. For this beer, we fermented with a mixed-culture of brett, wild sacc (a trois), and British ale yeast. We then heavily dry-hopped with Citra, Amarillo, and Galaxy. Currently, we self-distribute in and around Vancouver. You can regularly find our beers at Ben’s Bottle Shop, Final Draft Taphouse, Tap Union Freehouse, Thirsty Sasquatch, Blind Onion (on Mill Plain), and both Grapes n’ Growlers locations. We’re also bringing beer up to 3 Peaks in Ridgefield, Hockinson Taproom in Hockinson, and Caps n’ Taps in Camas. We also distribute along the Columbia River Gorge on both sides of the river and in Yakima, but we only distribute to Portland for special events.”

5) What’s in the tanks (or barrels) that we should be looking forward to from Dwinell?

“In the coming weeks we’ll be releasing a yet-to-be-named wild blend consisting of a dry-hopped mixed-culture golden ale and a brett pale ale that we’ve been aging in stainless for about 3 months. We’ve also been quietly filling barrels left and right. I’m pretty excited about one set of barrels in particular. Over a year ago we started on this long-term collaboration with Backwoods where we put their Gifford Pinchot Pilsner into freshly dumped Maryhill viognier wine barrels, where the beer then sat for about 8 months alongside a few strains of brett. Last winter we then racked the beer into stainless atop viogner must, after which we sent the beer back into oak with some more brett. Folks can expect to find beers from our barrel program to be released later this summer through our forthcoming bottle membership program and in a limited number of kegs at select retail accounts.”

Dwinell Country Ales is located at 206 W Broadway St, Goldendale, WA and is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 3PM to 9PM, Saturdays from 1PM to 9PM and Sundays from 1PM to 7PM. And if you geek out like me on the behind-the-scenes process of wild ales and farmhouse ales, or if you just love gorgeous pics of beer – @dwinellcountryales is an awesome follow!

Check out our past Q & A’s with Whitney Burnside (10 Barrel),Brett Thomas (Sunriver)Ben and Rik of Baerlic BrewingAusten Conn of Buoy BeerMichael Kora of Montavilla Brew WorksScott Sieber of Falling Sky BrewingCoren Tradd of Pelican Brewing Cannon BeachSarah Resnick of Freebridge BrewingTyler West of GoodLife Brewing and Natalalie Baldwin of Breakside Brewery.

Michael Perozzo
Michael Perozzo

Michael Perozzo is a life-long resident of Southwest Washington and father of 4. At his day job, he leads a digital marketing and graphic design team supporting food/beverage clients at ZZEPPELIN. Michael helped start Brewcouver – the passport to Vancouver’s breweries – and co-founded NorthBank Beer Week. He also manages beer buying for the Vancouver Brewfests and helped create Brewing Bridges Collaboration Fest. Portland Trail Blazers fans may remember him as DarthBlazer circa 2008-2012.