« on: March 12, 2011, 06:29:31 AM »
This issue with increasing competition entries is a real problem for me. As a BJCP national judge, competitions are interested in my participation and I'm happy to do it...to a point.
The problem is that the number of judges at competitions sometimes doesn't keep pace with the number of entries. Judges are overloaded and in a hobby with alcohol, that is a problem. There needs to be a better solution.
The ranks of BJCP judges keeps growing and there should be sufficient judges to staff these competitions, but the reward for participating as a judge (beside the comradery) typically amounts to getting a free lunch and a trinket. The judge is left to foot the bill for the overnight stay and travel costs. It just doesn't make sense. Judges need to be better compensated by these competitions for their services.
The Indiana State Fair runs a home and craft brewing competition that is probably one of the best run and compensated competitions in the nation. They are paying judges on the order of $100 if they live over a couple hundred miles from Indy to cover their travel costs. Even the local judges get a minor stipend and all judges get several meals during the course of the competition. That is a model that needs to be implimented across the nation.
To provide that stipend, competitions need to start increasing their entry fees. Entry fees are clearly too low and too many entrants see great benefit from their entry. That is great, but the cost for EVERYONE to participate needs to be spread around. Right now, judges are the ones paying and that needs to change. The side benefit of the competition covering more of the judge's cost is that more judges will be willing to make the trek to participate and that means that the quality of judge and judging will improve. Fewer beer entries per judge is a very desirable outcome for everyone.
The National Homebrew Competition has addressed some of my concern by limiting the number of entries at the regionals to 750 per site. That is a good start, but they also need to let the market help winnow the entries down and pay for judge participation. Entry fees need to go up a lot and NHC needs to better compensate the judging staff.
Let's get more good judges at all of these competitions. I'm sure that many of you that have entered a competition, have experienced poor feedback from a inexperienced judge. Wouldn't it be worth a few extra dollars to get better judges interested in participating in the contest and getting that better feedback?