The pre-qualification argument to reduce entries is not a good one.
It isn't a good argument, or you disagree? There's a difference. The way I see it, the AHA has to implement at least one of three options:
- An entry fee high enough to discourage entries;
- An entry cap so low it reduces the number of entries;
- A qualification requirement that reduces the number of entries.
We can certainly disagree about which option (or which combination of options) is best. Personally, I feel #1 is inherently unfair and that we're already past the point where #2 could help. Since the average number of entries is 4.5 (in 2012), even with a cap of one per brewer the first round would likely fill up. On the other hand, beers that score less than 30 in the first round are ineligible to advance anyway. From the competitions I've judged/stewarded (relatively few, I admit) that's roughly the over-under for all entries. So right off the bat you can eliminate on the order of half the entries without having to reduce the "openness" of the competition. It would *still* probably fill up, but at least we could get back to the registration window being open long enough that most people have a chance.
As a model, I think the GC should look to other fringe sports that have to deal with this same issue (namely, a lot of amateur interest in the sport relative to the governing body's resources). Look at golf, or chess, or poker, or billiards. All have gone through these kind of growing pains, and they've all implemented some sort of qualification requirement for their open national championships. (To be fair, the WSOP also has a high entry fee.) If they didn't, the US Open would last six months and bankrupt the USGA.