It must be fun to judge the NHC final round with all the great scores. Great job!
Yes, and no. Mostly good to great beers, but there are some stinkers on occasion. Guys next to us received a really problematic Black or Brown IPA. The first bottle was awful, so they asked for a second bottle, and it was only bad. They wound up giving it a 19 (which honestly is the same as a courtesy 13 in most competitions). Much like any other competition, bad bottles show up (infection or similar problems), and other times, it's a rushed rebrew that didn't turn out the same. This one had some manner of infection. They poured the steward a big cup to 'thank him' for bringing it to them.
Totally agree with Toby's comments. Some of the 2nd round beers are awesome. Some of the styles that would benefit from rebrew are not, and the age shows, or, the rebrew is not as good as the one that got them there.
I was lucky enough to also judge 2nd round NHC BOS last year (San Diego). Even then, we narrowed down to about the top 12 somewhat quickly. After that, it got very difficult.
The Gueze that won that flight was simply phenomenal.