Some folks seem to be upset at the recapping and that setting these beers aside significantly affects the quality of their beers. I personally don't see it, but I also have no practical experience with the judging. Thanks for your response and observations.
All the beers going to mini-BOS have been recapped, usually very early on in the judges' tasting of the beer (at least I try to do it early to preserve the beer as much as possible). That means all the beers going to mini-BOS essentially have a level playing field.
Do the beers change over time? Yes. All of them do. Does the beer you're judging change over the time that you are assessing just one factor in that one beer? Absolutely. Beer is constantly evolving in aroma, taste, appearance.
If you've ever judged or stewarded, I would bet you've seen how careful folks are with the beers--that has been my experience over many, many comps. A level playing field for all of the beers has always been a primary goal of all the comps in which I've judged.
And YES, there were outstanding, fantastic, and downright incredible beers, meads and ciders this year for the 1st round. Hats off to Janis and the regional organizers as well!