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Bones and brew

As beer and barbecue fans flocked to the Expo Saturday for the annual Southern Oregon Brew Fest, the vibrant smell of pulled pork pulled them in by the nostrils.

"Are you ready to live?" asked Trevor Bruce, of team Smoke and Mirrors, as he handed out samples of the team's special pulled pork topped with barbecue sauce to a line of people waiting to pass judgment on his handiwork.

Battle of the Bones started Friday with smokemasters competing to see who could barbecue the best tri-tip, continued Saturday with a pulled pork brouhaha, and continues Sunday with a chili competition.

While entry to the Expo is free, event-goers can purchase a ticket for $20 to sample entries from all 17 of this year's barbecue competitors and vote for their favorites. 

On Friday night, the event smoked out all 800 tickets for the tri-tip competition, and Smoke and Mirrors was voted People's Choice winner.

A competitive barbecue team, Smoke and Mirrors started out with Matt Southmayd, and his dad, Dale, cooking barbecue food for their church four years ago.

"They are all family and friends working here today," Dale Southmayd said. "People love it. And we have done well. It's a lot of fun."

The team members all wore black shirts that read, "I like pig butts and I cannot lie," with a swine in the background. As they handed off samples Saturday, team members hooted, "Woohoo!"

This is the fourth year the family and friends came together to compete at the Battle of the Bones, Matt Southmayd said. "It's just a great experience overall, that's why we keep coming back. Out of four years, we won first place in two of them. Oh, and we won last night, too."

Kandy Schweer, of White City, said she voted for the joint Friday for its "killer sauce."

"It made me go mmmmm," she said.

The Wolfs, of Eagle Point, agreed with Schweer Saturday afternoon as they nibbled on their smoky pulled pork.

"We still have a lot (of vendors) to taste," Debbie Wolf says. "But this is good. Good stuff."

Her husband, Steve, pondered for a moment before arriving at a conclusion, "Sweet and smoky."

Inside the Seven Feathers' Event Center, the Brew Fest featured more than 60 taps of Pacific Northwest microbrews, with local breweries ready to satisfy fairgoers' thirst.

Gina Velando, manager of Common Block Brewing Company, said the event is a good opportunity for small, local breweries to reach out to a wider audience.

"We just opened up this year in downtown, so it's great to get our name out here with other breweries," Velando said. "I saw some regular faces here but also a lot of new customers."

Shawn Hoyt, of Wild River Brewing, said the Brew Fest helps highlight the locally brewed beers.

"We have our crowd pleaser here — the Blackberry Porter. We have a lot of people come around asking for it," Hoyt said. "It also is just nice to serve good beers for people in such a relaxed and friendly environment."

As Dale and Matt returned to their barbecue booth with light IPAs in hand, the line of fairgoers looking to try their pulled pork had grown.

"We are in a great spot, doing what we love, and people like it," Dale said. "What else could you ask for?"

Festivities continue at the Expo Sunday. The Brew Fest will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the Growler Hour from 5-6 p.m., and the chili competition cooking from noon to 3 p.m. The Danielle Kelly Soul Project is scheduled to perform from 2 to 4 p.m. Barbecue tickets cost $10 Sunday.

— Reach reporting intern Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@mailtribune.com.

Trevor Bruce, Aaron Brown and Kim Butcher, with Smoke and Mirrors, hand out samples during the Battle of the Bones competition at the Southern Oregon Brew Fest at the Expo Saturday. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]