How does "Best of Show" work? Is it only the category winners that advance, or the top point getters, or is it competition-specific? How is the judging done anyway, are the beers being compared to each other, or are they being compared to their own styles?
I'm assuming you're asking about how the BOS runs? Surprisingly, it's usually left up to the panel of judges involved how to winnow their way through the entries. The entry pool is as defined previously, usually made up of any 1st place beer meeting whatever the competition's minimum guidelines are. For instance, in the Falcons comps, it's usually all 1st place beers because we allow judges to not award a first place if they don't feel a beer deserves it.
At the BOS table, how I typically run it:
All of the BOS beers/meads/ciders are poured out (so 28 for the Falcons). Each panelist has a style and notes for the beers. (e.g. IPA with Citra and Mango)
The panelists quickly taste through all the beers, jotting down notes, impressions and rough thumbs up/thumbs downs on each.
Then, we proceed with the talk. I usually do a round robin format asking each panelist for what beer stands out to them as being weak and why. Discussion ensues, yielding a go/no go decision. We keep that going until people have run out of beers they feel merit cutting.
Then we go through the remaining beers / revisit survivors of the first discussion (<14) .
After every beer has been discussed, we look at how many remain (<6) and take a straw pool to see how people feel about ranking. Beers with lower totals then usually are winnowed out unless some feels very strongly.
This is the fun part, because this is hard and this is where the merits of a beer get discussed in depth - both in terms of style and in terms of quality overall. In my experience BOS panels with experienced judges will factor in just how hard it it to pull off a style in a quality fashion. (e.g. a Mild or a Pilsner at this stage would definitely be recognized and given props for creating a great beer in an unforgiving style)
Then more straw polls, more discussion, more monkey knife fights and then suddenly a winner.
I will be honest - if you're in the top 3 (BOS, 1st Runnerup and 2nd Runnerup) then you did pretty damn well and probably only missed on by a few points.