I've been running in a very popular DC race for a couple years - the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. They have a great lottery with features I hope the GC adopts, as I think they can be adapted to NHC. In a nutshell...
1. Open registration for the lottery over 2 weeks.
2. Registration is well ahead of time so those who get in can prepare.
3. Elite athletes are guaranteed entry (I'd propose that NHC regional winners get guaranteed entry for the next year to keep a pool of great brewers in the game).
4. Volunteers get guaranteed entry for the next year (this race has NO shortage of volunteers).
5. Those unlucky few who get locked out multiple years in a row also get guaranteed entry.
6. All remaining slots go to everyone else randomly.
I have never heard a complaint about this lottery.
You could have saved us a lot of time and effort by simply posting this previously
The official decisions for what we implement for 2014 will come in an announcement from the AHA, but I will say this - we have discussed nearly every point above.
**I have changed your bullet points to numbers to make it easier to talk about.**
Some kind of extended registration period is likely, like #1.
As in #2, we will try to have registration as early as possible and it may move earlier in future years. I think there is value in this, which was also brought up by udubdawg previouly.
#3 has some supporters and some detractors - tracking and implementation could be an issue. Another question is, is using the NHC to qualify for future NHCs fair to great brewers who are unable to get their entries judged because of entry constraints? I'm pretty sure Gordon Strong has said getting a medal with one out of three beers is a good rate, so if you can only get one beer in the competition . . .
#4 is very likely to happen, the more volunteers the more entries we can judge, and that helps with a lot of these problems.
We have not discussed #5, but it is worth considering.
#6 is in line with our thoughts as well.
The main thing to bear in mind is that some of these changes are going to take a while to implement. The competition is going through a lot of growing pains right now and a lot of competing priorities so it is unlikely that everyone will be thrilled right off the bat. But we're going to continue trying things in order to keep the competition fair, keep it inclusive, keep it growing, and keep it great.