Why not just do the same thing the BA does for World Beer Cup (and frankly should also do for GABF)?
1. Figure out how many beers are realistic to judge in each region based on previous years, projected help this year, etc.
2. Open registration for 2 weeks.
3. Divide number of beers by number of registrations to give you number of beers each person can enter.
Ultimately if there is a cap of let's say 2000 entries in a specific region, the fact that 1500 of them are Pale Ales shouldn't necessarily matter.
This is essentially what we are doing. What happens though, when #3 means that each brewer gets to enter 0.5 beers? I think that is the problem we are up against, but we won't know until we have open registration and assess the demand. If we get 4000 people registering for 8000 beers, everyone will get to enter 2. But if we get 16000 people entering for those same 8000 entries then we will need to leave some people out.
Since we know only members are getting in now, it would seem like tracking by AHA number wouldn't be that hard. But assuredly there's difficulties I have no idea even exist, so OK...
I do favor this proposal, but it's not entirely up to me. The issue is that using NHC winners one year to give entries to the NHC for the next year means that you have to break in to the winners circle to have any confidence you can enter without being a volunteer. I know, everyone should volunteer, right? Well, not everyone lives close to a judging center, kids have birthdays, people go on vacation, some people work weekends - it is not always realistic for people to help out. I missed out on a local barleywine festival 4 years in a row because they kept scheduling it on weekends when I had other obligations. Which leaves busy folks with the lottery as their only way of getting a foot in the door, unless you make some allowance for winning OTHER competitions, which is where the tracking becomes a complete nightmare.
one more thing - will additional volunteerism mean additional entries? Let's say I judged at two different regions last year, as well as the Finals. Is that valued any higher than someone who just helped out at one region?
...tough call I'd not want to have to make. Good luck.
I don't think we lack volunteers for the final round, so I would not expect to get entries for helping out there. In fact, maybe we should track who comes to the conference and deduct entries from those who DON'T help in the final round.
Whether you get extra entries for judging at multiple first round sites remains to be seen.