I'm looking forward to seeing some improvement in the NHC, as it stands I wouldn't consider it an accurate measure of the best homebrewers in the country. It's only a competition between those lucky enough to get in before the spots all fill up.
This was confirmed Thursday morning when I judged German Wheats and Ryes and was seriously underwhelmed by the beers. A few were in the upper 30's, NONE in the 40s. One I wanted to give a 19, it was flawed, but for the purposes of the NHC there's no point in that so I managed to get it up to 20 or 21.
I would expect that if the competition were actually representing the best beers from everyone that wanted to enter it, that the beers would all be upper 30's, with some in the 40's and maybe even a 50 occasionally.
This is, in fact, what I observe when judging the NYS Homebrewer of the Year, which is judged as a BOS competition and is entered, for free, by invitation only, based on wins at the regional competitions around the state. For each of every 5 wins during the year, and the brewer is invited to send one beer to represent him or herself. The beers sent in are almost 100% excellent and picking the best example of style is a long, hard process. I'm not saying that the NHC should be an invitational, although that is an option, I'm just saying that IF the NHC were an open competition, there would be better beer at the table when you get it down to what are supposed to be the 33 best examples of the style from around the country.
Hopefully Janis and Fred and all those guys can figure it out, I know it's not an easy situation to be in. But for the level of work that goes into running the competition, it ought to be open to everyone that wants to enter. If not, what's the point?
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the AHA GC Competition Subcommittee has put together a survey to gather AHA members' feedback on their priorities for the National Homebrew Competition, which will help in deciding what steps we will take for future competitions. Look for that to be sent via email shortly after next week's National Homebrewers Conference.