Putting home brews to the test

INDEPENDENCE -- In judging a beer competition, you're likely to hear words like notes of caramel, bright, citrus and malty.That is, unless you're Gail Oberst, where "yucky" and "yummy" will suffice.Oberst was part of the four-judge panel during the second annual homebrew competition at the Independence Hop & Heritage Festival on Saturday."I'm no expert, but I've learned a few things," Oberst said. "I know what I like and if someone tells me a beer is supposed to be an IPA (India Pale Ale) and it doesn't taste like any IPA I've ever had before, I have to think if it's a mistake or they're trying to be adventurous."During Saturday's competition, the judges pored over 12 homebrewed entries in the "Lawnmower" and "Polk County Hop Proud" categories.Beers in the hop proud category were meant to articulate the essence of hop flavor, with American pale ales and IPAs dominating the division. Lawnmower beers were intended to be "session" beers, where thirst-quenching is preferred to intense flavor, styles like blond ales, pilsners and _x0015_K”lsch_x0015_ are typical for the category.With their Czech Engine blond ale, the Salem-based uncle and nephew tag team of Terry Johnson, 54, and Andy Johnson, 26, won the 2013 Lawnmower category.The pair finished second in the 2012 competition with the same beer."We didn't make anything special for the competition," Andy Johnson said. "I didn't think to look into when the festival was this year until a few weeks before. Fortunately, we had a few extra beers on hand."The Johnsons have been homebrewing for just over a year, a testament to the growing popularity and quality of the hobby.Dallas resident Cory McIntosh is on the other end of the homebrewing spectrum.McIntosh, 54, has been brewing for more than a decade, a time when microbreweries weren't as rampant as they are now.In his first competition, McIntosh took home the Homebrew Master title in the Hop Proud category."I was kind of pushed into doing it, it wasn't all that big of a deal to me," McIntosh said. "If I was going to enter something, I was going to enter what I like the best of what I make."For being crowned Homebrew Masters, the Johnsons and Mcintosh will get to brew a batch of their own malted goodness at Rogue Brewery's Track Town Ales in Eugene.

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