Author Topic: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support  (Read 9626 times)

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #90 on: May 06, 2011, 05:16:32 AM »
I don't think it would be fair to continue to let people enter 25 beers and then limit the total number of entries.  Although I suppose a first come first served approach brings a certain amount of fairness to it.  And I just don't see where its possible to let the contest grow unchecked.  It'll crash and burn under its own weight.  Limiting entries might have a cooling effect but it might also lend a certain additional amount of credibility in terms of the seriousness of the entrants.  I foresee club parties waiting for midnight on the first day to enter.
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Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #91 on: May 08, 2011, 05:02:25 AM »
Sometimes you have to put quality first. Not that judging fresh beers against beers open for 3 hours isn't bad enough but the situation in NY this year where beers were open overnight and then judged in mini-bos is horrible and would have been avoided with a second bottle.

Hey, I judged that flight! My wife and I were assigned German wheat and rye on Friday night. We got through one flight (14 beers) and then the hall owners kicked us out. Our mini-BoS winners got recapped with plastic temporary caps. Saturday morning we judged the rest of the flight (13 beers). Surprisingly, for a style that demands high carbonation and suffers badly from oxidation, one of our Friday night mini-BoS entries actually took first place!

FWIW, I saw no problems with the quality of the judging; I saw a lot of National and experienced Certified judges at Saratoga Springs. I'm a Certified judge going for National or better rank (I took the exam for the third time this three weeks ago) and my wife is Certified. We immediately recapped all our beers and set them aside. Putting them in a cooler wasn't an option since we were acting as our own stewards. We filled out full scoresheets, discussed each entry, and generally came within 3 points of each other in scoring. I think we did a good job under bad circumstances. If anyone has problems with my judging, please contact me privately.

Honestly once you have the bottles sorted, do they really take up that much space (I've seen 900, I can extrapolate to 1500)? Maybe we should look harder for sites instead of sacrificing quality.

750 entries of 1 bottle each is 31.25 cases. That's a heck of a lot of beer. Our club competition last week had approximately the same amount (2 bottles @ at 325 entries). It would occupy an entire glass-fronted convenience store beer cooler, or about an eight to a quarter of a typical walk-in cooler. That puts something of a limit on club venues since not many places have that sort of storage capacity and don't necessarily want strangers going in and out of their kitchen.

Does anyone want to defend the NY situation as anything other than a horrible judging situation? Does anyone have a better idea to prevent it from happening again?

I think that the NY competition was a debacle because it was a little club that didn't realize that they could actually get 750 entries, then freaked out when they actually did. I saw very little local club support and not a whole lot of advanced planning. Maybe bad local politics happened and some key people decided to stay away. If so, it was a terribly short-sighted decision.

In their defense, I will say  that the hall was decent (other than being kicked out at 10 p.m. on Friday before the judging was done) and could have handled twice the number of judges. Also, lack of pull sheets on Friday evening was possibly due to havning to quickly import the club's entry database over to the AHA's format.

Other than that, yeah, it sucked. Huge flights. No stewards. No cellarmaster. No pull sheets ready when we arrived on Friday. The promised dinner never appeared, only lunch and not much of that. The AHA owes a big debt of gratitude to George Di Piro at C.H. Evans/Albany Pump House for taking over judging on later weekends. Also, all the people who stepped into the rubble to judge those flights deserve a big hand.

I'm surprised that the competition didn't pull in more judges from New England. I think that the email plea for judges just went to NY. Either that or everyone in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Quebec had better things to do that day. I also didn't see that many judges from downstate NY - NYC and Long Island. They might have found it easier to go to Philadelphia. Not that I blame them, but some judges I know saw a catastrophe in the making and stayed away. Perhaps they had bad judging experiences there before. The price of gas might have discouraged others.

The lesson for me is that a really big competition either requires several clubs pulling together and also requires the AHA to more carefully investigate a club's ability to handle a big competition. My ideas:

1) Any bid to host an NHC 1st round ought to include total club membership to get an estimate of "passive support" for the competition.

2) The AHA should make the bid organizers for an NHC 1st round jump through a few hoops and submit a reasonably detailed plan in order to get an estimate of potential support. If there's no evidence that there's a planning committee, that's reason to be suspicious of the club's organizing skills.

3) I think that there ought to be more 1st round regional competitions, so that clubs who are only used to handling 200-400 bottle competitions don't get slammed. I think that there are a lot more venues, and clubs, that can handle that sort of volume. My local HB club could easily handle a 300-350 entry competition, but we'd get killed by 750 entries.

4) If the BJCP were to spend money to encourage judges to attend, I'd prefer that it take the form of food or organizational support (e.g., arranging for motel discounts). Paying judges gets into troubles and bad feelings over expense accounts, mileage, out-of-town vs. local status, and all sorts of petty finance/politics. It also might put the AHA into bad legal territory.

5) The AHA should look at national trends in homebrew club membership, competitions and entries to past NHC to determine how to split up regions for future years. It's a great savings in time and trouble if you have a relatively local shipping/judging location. Certainly, the NE region needs to be split into its own territory. I'm not sure if NY could be its own region, but possibly NY and PA could.

6) The level of entries could be due to the economy. More people unemployed = more time to make beer. I have no idea if homebrewing is counter-recessional, though.

7) I'd personally hate to restrict entries or punish people who want to enter every category. If you're that dedicated, more power to you. I'd also be reluctant to punish clubs for entering large numbers of beers. It's not a big thing where I am, but some clubs set great store by collective wins.

« Last Edit: May 08, 2011, 05:43:42 AM by thomasbarnes »

Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #92 on: May 08, 2011, 05:09:12 AM »
As far as the issues faced in NY, it sounds like the flights must not have used queued judging.

We would have loved to use queued judging. The problem was that there were no stewards, and you need a steward who has a whole passel of clues if you are using queued judging. Also, even if there had been trained stewards, there just weren't enough judges at any one time to make queued judging work. You need at least two teams of judges working in parallel.

Offline mabrungard

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #93 on: May 08, 2011, 11:51:37 AM »
Well with the Saratoga results, I'd say that we have already seen what happens when its not worth the regional judge's time to participate in a judging effort that doesn't present enough incentive.  A poor lunch is not going to going to get me to drive several hundred miles.  A nice lunch and dinner might.  Better recognition and support to the judges and organization staff are a must.  Unfortunately, that support is going to cost the NHC more.  As a past competitor, I would not hesitate to pay more to enter my beers.  I found that the real cost to competition was the shipping anyhow.  As has been mentioned previously, this is not a regular competition, its the Nationals.  It should cost more than the local contest. 

Tom mentioned increasing the number of regional competitions.  That is a good idea excepting that it makes the Final round of judging too large.  Then we would have a very tough time getting enough judges and space to hold that round at the convention.  I know Janice has expressed that concern before.  Cutting the number of beers in each category down to 2 from each regional would solve the problem, but I hate to think that the third place beer in one region was better than other beers from any other region.  Maybe the minimum score to qualify for the second round needs to be bumped to 35 or so?  I have to admit that I tasted too many beers that scored in the 20's in the five sessions I judged at the Indy Regional.  Maybe we need to make the NHC entry cost too expensive to make it feasible for anyone with a so-so beer to enter?  These are radical ideas, but we need to move forward soon.  Our competition committee clearly has their work cut out for themselves!
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Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #94 on: May 10, 2011, 04:00:45 AM »
Tom mentioned increasing the number of regional competitions.  That is a good idea excepting that it makes the Final round of judging too large.

A slight increase in regional competitions, like going from 12 to 15, probably wouldn't break anything. I'd have to look at total entries per region to figure out where the additional demand is. I could easily see dividing up the West Coast, the Southwest and the Northeast, and possibly the Ohio Valley.

I like your idea of only having the 1st & 2nd place winners go on; that would immediately reduce the entries in the second round by a third.

A minimum score of 30 is already required to advance. Requiring a slightly higher score is a good idea. I'd set it a bit lower than 35, though, since 35+ starts to be "rare air" territory for some judges and also kills "love 'em or hate 'em" beers where one judge thinks the beer is great and the other finds faults. As a related thought, I don't think that there's any harm in handing out 1st - 3rd place ribbons regardless of score; the AHA just has to specify beers qualified for the second round.

It seems to me that the real problem is most clubs can only handle 450-500 entries. Here are some crackpot ideas:

1) Do multiple 1st rounds, but in waves over a few months. Judge the big beers, ciders and meads early, since they tend to survive aging and/or need more time to condition if you rebrew. Do the smaller beers second. Different clubs could handle different "waves."

2) Do multiple 1st rounds within the same region, but split the style categories between locations. For example, one competition judges just categories 1-14, while another competition in the same region just judges categories 15-29. That would have the effect of lowering the total number of entries per competition while keeping total entries stable and not increasing the number of regions. This would be twice the workload for the AHA, but would be mostly transparent to brewers, except for the possible hassle to have to mail your brews to two different locations.

3) Increase the number of regions, but don't judge all the second round beers at the NHC. You could have subsidiary second round competitions where some or all of the actual judging is done, with the winners being kept secret to be announced at the NHC conference. If you still wanted to see judging at the NHC, just do BoS there.

4) Go to a 3-tiered system, where each state/group of small states does its own competition, the winners go to a regional competition, and then the winners of regional competition are asked to rebrew and submit their beers to the NHC finals.

5) Ditch the current 1st and 2nd round system entirely. Let any AHA-sanctioned competition held from January to April have the option of declaring itself an "AHA NHC qualifying event" - basically, playing by the AHA's rules. 1st place winners in qualifying events who receive a certain minimum score (e.g., 33+) can automatically submit the beer to the NHC Finals.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2011, 12:37:55 PM by thomasbarnes »

Offline MDixon

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #95 on: May 10, 2011, 04:40:10 AM »
As far as the issues faced in NY, it sounds like the flights must not have used queued judging.

We would have loved to use queued judging. The problem was that there were no stewards, and you need a steward who has a whole passel of clues if you are using queued judging. Also, even if there had been trained stewards, there just weren't enough judges at any one time to make queued judging work. You need at least two teams of judges working in parallel.

Not the case...what you need is a master pull sheet which everyone uses. Just tick off the next one so the other groups know it is gone from the cooler...EASY...


I believe in your earlier post you put in BJCP (number 4) and meant to type AHA...the BJCP doesn't do anything with the NHC other than to sanction it, provide a judge contact list, provide the style guidelines for download, etc same as with any other comp. Another point is the NHC requires you to use their database, I'm not sure why people try or even attempt to do something different, you really don't even need the database for the comp day other than printing out the pull sheets and that can be accomplished ahead of time.

When I was JD I had not heard of queued judging and spent a buttload of time breaking the flights up. Had to get the data out of Access, into Excel, into Word...OMG it was a chore...later that summer we judged queued in the 2nd round and it all became clear. Had I known about it, it would have saved me about 16 hours of work...
« Last Edit: May 10, 2011, 04:57:40 AM by MDixon »
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Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #96 on: May 11, 2011, 12:43:33 PM »
Not the case...what you need is a master pull sheet which everyone uses. Just tick off the next one so the other groups know it is gone from the cooler...EASY...

Doh! Of course! [Slaps forehead] It's still a huge convenience to have a smart steward to "referee" the action, though.

I believe in your earlier post you put in BJCP (number 4) and meant to type AHA...

Yep. Fixed.

When I was JD I had not heard of queued judging and spent a buttload of time breaking the flights up.

I think it's more typical to just give the judges assigned to a particular category the master pull list, then let them squabble over how to divide the entries. But, yeah, queued judging is better.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #97 on: May 11, 2011, 01:45:37 PM »
I think it's more typical to just give the judges assigned to a particular category the master pull list, then let them squabble over how to divide the entries. But, yeah, queued judging is better.
Typical where?  I haven't been to a competition that did that in a really long time, and it was not a good competition.
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Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #98 on: May 12, 2011, 09:56:50 PM »
I think it's more typical to just give the judges assigned to a particular category the master pull list, then let them squabble over how to divide the entries. But, yeah, queued judging is better.
Typical where?  I haven't been to a competition that did that in a really long time, and it was not a good competition.

What I meant was that judges for a split flight get the pull sheet for the flight they're supposed to judge. They decide how to split it. I didn't mean to imply that they get the full flight list for all categories.

I've judged a number of well-managed competitions where there are four judges and one flight list. Usually, it works out fairly well. The judges either use queued judging or just decide to split the flight down the middle, with one pair of judges taking half of the list and the other pair taking the other half. Generally, if the flight doesn't lend itself to an even split, the judges go with queued judging, otherwise, the flight is split as evenly as possible.  Sometimes, I've actually seen the master pull sheet for the flight physically cut in half. Usually, total talking time is 5-10 minutes.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #99 on: May 12, 2011, 10:59:19 PM »
Typical where?  I haven't been to a competition that did that in a really long time, and it was not a good competition.
What I meant was that judges for a split flight get the pull sheet for the flight they're supposed to judge. They decide how to split it. I didn't mean to imply that they get the full flight list for all categories.
That's what I thought you meant.  Typically I get a pull sheet for the flight and it is already split.  If we finish first we might take one from any flights in the same category (that we have to do a mini BOS with) that aren't quite done, but we don't have to decide how to split them.  We sit down, a steward brings us a bucket of beers, and we get started.  If we're doing queued judging we get a master list, someone brings a bucket of beers, and we get started.    It is all well planned out ahead of time.

I think this is one of the reasons that the Seattle NHC took Friday night and 2 sessions on Saturday - planning.  That and a lot of judges. ;)
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Offline bluesman

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #100 on: May 14, 2011, 07:36:53 PM »
Typical where?  I haven't been to a competition that did that in a really long time, and it was not a good competition.
What I meant was that judges for a split flight get the pull sheet for the flight they're supposed to judge. They decide how to split it. I didn't mean to imply that they get the full flight list for all categories.
That's what I thought you meant.  Typically I get a pull sheet for the flight and it is already split.  If we finish first we might take one from any flights in the same category (that we have to do a mini BOS with) that aren't quite done, but we don't have to decide how to split them.  We sit down, a steward brings us a bucket of beers, and we get started.  If we're doing queued judging we get a master list, someone brings a bucket of beers, and we get started.    It is all well planned out ahead of time.

I think this is one of the reasons that the Seattle NHC took Friday night and 2 sessions on Saturday - planning.  That and a lot of judges. ;)

Tom...I agree. The key to Seattle's success was great planning and lots of judges which are the two key components to a successful comp IMO.

I also think it goes without saying that the location and accessibility of judges is also very important. Which in the case of Seattle was an important factor.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #101 on: May 14, 2011, 11:14:00 PM »
I also think it goes without saying that the location and accessibility of judges is also very important. Which in the case of Seattle was an important factor.
We've done a lot in this area to increase and improve the judge pool over the last couple of years.  I'm not taking any credit for that, or for the first round this year.  But it has made a big impact.  Another big factor - experience.  If you don't know what you're getting in to it is really hard to plan for it.
Tom Schmidlin