Here's my 2 cents regarding the NHC 2013 competition:
Solutions people seem to be putting forward include:
1) Restrict entries to AHA members or give AHA members preferential treatment for entry submittal.
My thoughts regrading this is that this competition is the "National Homebrew Competition" not the "Annual American Homebrewer's Association Competition". If you want to restrict it to AHA members or even give AHA members preference, you should probably rename the competition to reflect that.
2) Jack up entry prices to reduce entry submittals.
You could make an entry extremely cost prohibitive such as setting at $100 an entry, and people still pay to send in 15 entries. At what point also does this competition become a rich man/woman's game? The $17 price tag for non-AHA members is already higher than I believe any other BJCP competition. My expectation is that for a $17 fee, my score sheets are going to be well filled out and have positive feedback, and the judges all are going to be BJCP.
3) Eliminate the need for BJCP judges and let anyone judge.
If people are sending in $17 per entry than they have the right and expectation that their entry is going to be judged by a qualified person. Currently, the accepted definition of a qualified judge for homebrew competitions is someone in the BJCP program. Further, the BJCP has high standards for their judges, their score sheets, and their competitions.
4) Make the competition even bigger by adding more entry sites.
The problem with this, is that the hobby is continuing to grow by leaps and bounds every year. The demand to enter this competition is way higher right now than the capacity to organize, run, and judge it. Organizing and running a competition is a great deal of work. Remember that these people are volunteers doing what they can to help a hobby they love.
The NHC is considered by many homebrewers to be THE competition. The awards and recognition that go along with this competition are well known and desired. If the AHA wants a competition that determines a National Homebrewer of the Year, then I think the competition needs to change as follows:
Make the NHC competition a qualification event. What that means is that you need your entry or entries to qualify for the NHC first round for you to enter them. I would recommend that you could make qualification to the NHC as easy as having beers that place 1, 2, 3 in a BJCP-competition with a minimum average score (let's say 35). Beers that meet this criteria earn "a ticket" to the NHC first round. The goal of the first round of NHC would be judge these beers, and then send the winners onto the second round as it is currently set up.
I believe this is the really only viable for the competition to remain relevant facing the current and future demand. The current format we experienced last week was a total crap shoot. If you have a good internet connection, picked the right regional location, and had a great deal of luck and persistence you may have registered the 15 beer limit. I suspect most people only got 4 - 5 in, if they were lucky.
The current competition format is set up for volume rather than quality. If this is truly the prestigious competition that many consider it to be, then the goal should be quality over quantity. Let the beers get vetted and judged, and the pool of entries reduced before you even get to round 1 of NHC. Would this require coordination with the BJCP, competitions, and the AHA - absolutely. Is it a great deal of work? I don't really think so. The BJCP is already tracking these competitions to award steward and judging points - the AHA could certainly peruse the results page and update their tracker accordingly.
I do know one thing, the crap shoot we all went through last week is something I want to avoid going through again.