Hi Donger, I'll do my best to answer your questions about the National Homebrew Competition (NHC).
The entry per entrant cap is not set in advance. We allow those interested in entering the competition to select a number of entries they would like to submit, up to 7. Once the initial enrollment period ends (January 22), we know how many entrants and entries have been requested. We then run an algorithm to fill in the judge centers (13 judge centers with a capacity of 750 entries each), trying to maximize the number of members that can compete in the competition, place as many entrants as possible in their primary choice of judge center, and keep the number of entries per judge center as even as possible. In the process we run the algorithm with various options for an entry cap to find which does the best for maximizing the criteria above. Last year, the cap was 5 entries and in 2018 it was 4.
We added the final round entry fee for a couple of reason:
1. The cost of the final round has grown more significantly than first round costs with the growth of the competition and conference. With Homebrew Con primarily being in convention centers now, the cost of feeding judges (have to use in-house caterers) is much greater than it is for first round sites. In 2018, we spent $17,000 to feed final round judges. We also incur expenses like space rental and refrigerated trailers that are either lower or aren’t incurred at all at first round sites.
2. We continue to expand the number of categories we judge in the competition as homebrewers brew and ever-widening variety of styles. When we add another category, it does not impact the number of entries (or entry fee revenue) in the first round, but it does impact the number of entries in the final round (13 judge centers X # of categories X top three entries per category). So when we add a category, it hasn’t impacted the entry revenue, but it has impacted the number of judges we need, and thus cost, for the final round.
The $9 entry fee in the final round doesn’t come close to covering our actual costs for the final round, but it does help offset the growth in expenses we’ve been incurring.
I think our first round judge center volunteer organizers do a kick-ass job of executing well run competitions. With around 750 entries per judge center, that’s a daunting task and invariably there will be some issues, as there are with pretty much every competition I’ve ever judged. However, at all of the first round judge centers I’ve judged, the local organizers have worked very hard to ensure the entries are judged fairly and the judges are treated well.