Great comments everyone, I'll try to answer some of the questions raised here:
in terms of 2 bottles, johnf raises some excellent points about 2 bottles and the quality of the competition. We are sensitive to this issue and it has been raised every year that I have been on the Gov Committee. The problem we have is, many regions can't handle 1500 bottles arriving and storing them. many regions do not receive entries and judge in the same location, so the bottles need to be transported to the judging site. I am concerned about johnf's comment that beers were stored overnight before mini-BOS judging the next day. this is clearly not optimal. We will definitely consider this issue again after the second round is completed.
johnf also asked about the cost of shipping certificates and prizes - again we can look at the specific costs of this and cutting back here in lieu of raising entry fees seems quite reasonable.
Jeffy asks about the costs of running a first round judging site. I have personally been a first round organizer 3 times over the last 10 years and our region has run right around $2,000 - $2,400 in that time. We have costs for beer storage, judging site rental, 3 meals [we judge on a Friday evening, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon] - so we do one dinner, a light breakfast and a lunch. This is for approx 80 people each day [60 - 65 judges and 15 or so stewards]. Postage to mail out score sheets can be over $200. Cups - for 750 entries and mini-BOS panels for nearly every category one needs almost 3,000 cups. etc. etc, You get the idea, all these expenses total out to a pretty big number pretty quickly.
For second round judging a breakfast and lunch are provided to the judges and this is typically done in the conference hotel, which is much more costly than the way the first round sites can feed their judges.
Markaberrant raises an excellent point of having more smaller first round sites proceeding to regionals, then on to a final round. I’ve thought about this myself for some time now. We’ll discuss this in the subcommittee but again the problem is locating enough first round sites, the competition would need to start 2 months earlier [as this makes the competition a 3 tiered comp] and the added costs of multiple sites may not pencil out, but this is an excellent suggestion for revamping the entire competition, thanks.
I'm beginning to get too long winded here, suffice it to say a big part of the problem is the enormous size of this competition which cannot be run solely by volunteers, it requires AHA staff time to locate suitable judging centers and to field all the questions from entrants, support the database, etc. Due to the size of this competition it doesn't scale up linearly from a local club competition that has 400 entries, it's much more complicated, time consuming and costly to run.
Again, keep the suggestions coming, we are listening.