Interesting topic. And as someone who tends to stay away from competitions I do still fill compelled to leave my 2 cents.
As I see it our hobby has grown a lot and it is no secret how to brew excellent beer. Most of us are very willing to share and as a result most experienced and serious home brewers can brew excellent beers. That pushes all of them into the region where it is not so much the skill as a brewer that matters but simply luck. At that point it does help to have as many entries as possible as much as it helps to buy as many lottery tickets as possible if you want to win the lottery. Just that in our case you increase your odds not only by entering more beers but also by brewing the beers as good as you can.
In the end you can definitely “buy” Ninkasi or BOS. The most extreme form is to have enough money that you can brew full time and enter in all categories. You still have to be a skilled brewer though but with the ability to brew that much the odds are definitely stacked in your favor.
And you don’t even have to brew a batch for each entry. There are a number of styles which can be created by blending. I think I could make a decent Maerzen out of a Helles and a Dark Bock, for example. Though it may not be a candidate for a medal it should still get me 30-40 points just for the cost of an entry fee. Maybe the tie breaker should not be the total number of 1st round points but the average score of 1st round points.
I think an entry cap per person is a fair approach to curb the number of entries in the future. Someone who brews a lot still has a leg up since he/she can select their entries from a larger pool. It would also be fair to keep this cap for only the first 3 weeks of the entry window. If there are still spots available after these 3 weeks they can be filled on a first come first serve basis.
Thanks for your thoughts on the NHC awards. I'll keep these in mind when the AHA GC Competition Sub-Committee begins discussion for next year. One thing that I don't think we'll do is to change from the First Round Points to the average scores of the First Round entries earning points. There is enough variability of scores between flights of a category in one competition, much less from one competition to another, that I don't think that would be a meaningful way to do a tie breaker.
Keep the ideas coming!
National Homebrew Competition Director
AHA Project Coordinator