Aren't the quick or instant versions just 'pre-gelatinized' ? I don't use oats often, so I haven't deciphered a difference with those versions and the regular oats.
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One thing I worry about is the entry fee. I know some want it to be $30 so people limit their entries. I was fine with the increase last year but much higher and I'll just not bother sending entries.
I know they were working on NHC last year, but I hope Philly is a 1st round site this year. Two years ago, they did an excellent job!!
One issue with size I found was that some of the preassembled 15 gallon kettles, like the Blichmann model, put the thermometer at around the 6 gallon mark, making it somewhat less useful for 5 gallon batches.
On aluminum vs stainless steel, it's your call. Aluminum is cheaper, but requires more maintenance and isn't as easy to modify (ie., drilling ports and/or welding; refer to Palmer's How To Brew). I had an 8 gallon aluminum pot for a while, I stopped using it because I upgraded to full boils and had problems with boilover, and also I managed to pit the interior by leaving some cleaning chemical (or possibly temp storage of Star San) in it for too long. Those sort of problems are less likely with stainless.
From a chemistry standpoint, would it matter?