My suggestion last year was to go from 2 rounds to 3 rounds.
Say have 20 1st round sites at 500 entries each = 10,000 entries (33% increase). 2nd round could be 4 sites with 420 entries each. Then the final round would only have 336 entries to judge and would presumably be the cream of the crop, and you could also get away with only using National judges or higher in the final round, and it wouldn't be such a burden for the Conference itself.
There are pros and cons to this:
- increase the number of entries, and allows room for growth (you could increase 1st round sites to 25, or entries/site to 600, boosting total entries again to 12,000-12,500, and still not have to add another 2nd round site).
- lightens the load for all judging sites, very easy to judge 336-500 entries.
- increases coordination effort for the AHA, as you would have 3 rounds and 34 sites to coordinate. This is not insignificant, they do A LOT of work already, though maybe increased entry revenues could allow more staff to be added?
- 1st round would likely have to start in Feb, 2nd round in April, 3rd round at NHC. We all know what time can do to certain beers, but it also allows the opportunity to rebrew fresh entries.
- entrants may have to ship 3 entries to 3 different sites if they advance to the finals.
That being said, I have zero beef with the way things are run now. Decisions regarding the competition are not taken lightly, there are a pile of people working very hard every year to make this thing work, I don't think anyone could predict the insane growth over the last few years.
Just my thoughts,