Author Topic: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support  (Read 7546 times)

Offline mabrungard

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National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« on: April 24, 2011, 12:35:28 PM »
I just finished up a 4 day run of judging for the NHC Indy Regional.  I have to say that I'm dissappointed and am ranting to get the ball rolling on things that MUST change regarding the fees charged and support provided by AHA for the NHC.  

Needless to say, NHC is a huge undertaking.  Through the hard work of hundreds of judges, stewards, organizers, and sponsors, it does get done.  The problem that is occuring is that there isn't enough support provided to the people that run and organize these contests and the popularity of the NHC continues to grow.  Clearly, the law of supply and demand is not being followed and its time to comment on it.  

At many of the regional competitions, the pool of highly qualified judges in a locality is limited and getting additional judges from the region is needed.  I was very pleased to see judges at the Indy Regional that traveled up to 6 hours to participate.  My hat was off to them!  But I wouldn't have traveled that far for the lunch and door prize that they recieved.  The few judge experience points are poor compensation for the hundreds of dollars that some of those judges probably shelled out for travel, lodging, and meal expenses.  There needs to be a significant change to the program to correct that.  

In talking with Janice (NHC Coordinator) over the years, I know that the contest is expensive as is and that is with the limited support they currently provide to the regional contests.  The popularity of the contest is unquestioned, as the entry quotas are exhausted in short order.  Given the need for additional support at the regional contests, the costs to run the competition are going to rise significantly. Therefore, the entry fees need a commensurate increase.  

Judges traveling more than about 50 miles need to be compensated for their travel and other expenses to make it worth their while to make the trip.  Before too long, the only judges showing up will be the locals and they will have to deal with the 750 entry pool themselves.  See how long any of those overworked local judges stick in there after they have spent days at the contest.  Then you won't even have the locals participating.  

In my opinion, a daily stipend for judges traveling over (50?) miles is needed now.  Those are the folks that are critical to the contest execution and they are too far from home to make the drive back after a couple of sessions.  They are footing their bill for travel and lodging and the contestants need to be paying for that.  In addition, better meal support needs to be provided.  A single lunch is not cutting it.  If its a full day of judging, then at least 2 meals need to be provided.  If its just a half day of judging, then a single meal should be provided.  

These incentives only serve to offset the cost of judging and organizer participation since there will always be the significant contribution of time that would be hard to equitably compensate.  The potential is that the entry fees for NHC could easily double. Given the popularity of the event, it may not make a dent in the entry numbers.  But at least there would be higher likelihood that an adequate number of qualified judges would show up.  If these changes are not implimented, there is the distinct possibility that NHC Regional contests could fail (ie. not enough judges show up to complete the contest in a timely manner).  

Again, my hat is off to you hardy souls that contributed your time and money to participate as an organizer or judge in the NHC.  You have gone above and beyond.  That needs to change!

PS: These same arguments apply to any local contest too.  Organizers, If you're wondering why you can't get judges to participate, you need to make it somewhat worth their while.  The days of the low entry fee are over.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2011, 12:39:38 PM by mabrungard »
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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2011, 01:27:44 PM »
Martin, you make some valid points.  I sent an email to the AHA and the GC competition committee to see if someone would weigh in.
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Offline tumarkin

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2011, 06:19:44 PM »
there was a thread on our forum recently that brought up the idea of raising comp entry fees and using that money to provide at least a minimal stipend to out of town judges. there's a lot of merit to that idea.

re the NHC (but this applies to many comps that are drawing increased entries)....
Data -
raising number of entries, maxing out entrance cap in fairly short order
not enough judges, requiring extra judging sessions, overworking the judges that show up (remember this is all on a volunteer basis)

if entry fees are raised there's a likelihood that it will have a negative impact on number of entries. I say negative in the sense of potential reduced entries. but if we're trying to give good feedback & constructive criticism to the entrants, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

if the increase in entry fees is used to provide a stipend to judges, this is certainly likely to increase the number of judges willing to travel to help at competitions.

THIS IS AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME........ LET'S MAKE IT HAPPEN

as Martin points out, if nothing is done it will lead to an inevitable down turn in number of judges available to judge increased entries. this is a train wreck scenario. let's do something to improve the situation.
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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2011, 06:27:50 PM »
I think the idea of helping to offset the cost of judges time, travel, and meal expenses is a good one.  And obviously, as Martin points out, that would necessitate raising the entry fees.  However, before you double the fees you might want to get some additional "market information" about the entrants price tolerance.

Just speaking for myself I don't think $9 per entry is out of line at all.  Would I pay $12?  Absolutely.  Would I pay $15?  Maybe.  Would I pay $18?  I'm not sure that I would.  I entered 3 beers this year and with shipping that'd cost me $75 to enter the first round.  That's a bit steep perhaps.

Or perhaps not.  As long as there are enough people to fill, or mostly fill, the competition quotas, then the price point is not too high.  The goal is to maximize revenue while providing a quality product (judging and feedback).  Perhaps this would be a good question to include in the annual AHA survey to get some additional data.
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Offline johnf

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2011, 06:29:18 PM »
The NHC could easily provide $50 stipends to judges travelling more than 50 miles with the existing entry fees based on conservative back of the envelope calculations.

I'm sure someone will say I am wrong but they won't back it up with detailed accounting of where 6750*9 - 9*(number of BOS free entry codes) + 5*(number of $14 entries) - 9*($1600 expense reimbursement to each first round site) goes.

Let's go to a two bottle entry. That will suppress entry numbers, provide better quality judging (no judging mini-bos with bottles open for 12 hours like happened this year or 3 hours as happens at every site every year), and since the bottleneck is judging and not sorting the sites should be able to handle it. It seems like the primary goal for the last several years has been ratcheting up the number of entries. I think it is time to question the wisdom of that approach.

Offline markaberrant

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2011, 07:59:25 AM »
Very good discussion, it is always good to evaluate how you are doing things to see if there is an opportunity to improve.

In regards to paying judges, I think that could be a somewhat slippery slope.  You may get judges coming who just want a "free trip."  There would also need to be more quality assurance - if you are paying judges (and likely increasing entry fees), then they better be good.

We run things a lot different for the Canadian Qualifier (sort of like a small scale, mini-NHC for Canada, entries are nowhere near 750), but our out of town judges are offered billeting, we provide a couple of meals, and there is a Volunteer Appreciation Night which is sponsored by a local Gastro Pub and regional Craft Brewer.  Based on history and feedback, our out of town judges go home totally thrilled with the experience and can't wait to come back next year.

I will throw out another idea - maybe there needs to be 3 rounds for the NHC - Local/Regional/National - this would lighten the load at the Regional level, which seems to be the bottleneck at this point.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2011, 08:01:12 AM by markaberrant »

Offline Beer Monger

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2011, 08:10:33 AM »
Compensation for judges who must travel some distance to be there would be nice, but you'd have to be very careful with how it's implemented - and would a corresponding entry fee increase be required in some areas to offset the cost of compensating the judges?

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2011, 08:14:27 AM »
How are the competition sites selected?  Is there an analysis to determine if the site location is in close proximity to a high concentration area of judges?

I realize someone has to take the ball and set it up, secure a location, etc. but if travel can be minimized it may help.

As far as raising the fees, I doubt I would submit any entries if it was above $10 per entry, but that is just me. I can't imagine the impact on the people who prepare all year and submit 15-20+ entries. 
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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2011, 08:48:19 AM »
I can't imagine the impact on the people who prepare all year and submit 15-20+ entries. 

In that scenario those people might decide to submit less entries which would also serve to lighten the load on the regional competitions.
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Offline richardt

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2011, 09:22:09 AM »
Edited for brevity:

At many of the regional competitions, the pool of highly qualified judges in a locality is limited and getting additional judges from the region is needed...  
Before too long, the only judges showing up will be the locals and they will have to deal with the 750 entry pool themselves... 
...there is the distinct possibility that NHC Regional contests could fail (ie. not enough judges show up to complete the contest in a timely manner).
...These same arguments apply to any local contest too.  Organizers, If you're wondering why you can't get judges to participate, you need to make it somewhat worth their while.

I think the key issue is an undersupply of "qualified judges"--there are at least two causes for this.
One reason , as Martin identified, the personal cost to each individual judge (hotel, driving, meals, time away from family, etc) is not insignificant and presents a big barrier.
The second reason, and this is just my personal opinion, is the limited quality of the judges at some of the competitions.  The BJCP exams are limited (12 seats per exam, infrequently given, very difficult format, long turn-around to get results, with limited emphasis on the sensory aspect of the formal BJCP exam , yet it is the most important part of the judge's abilities to critically assess and render fair scores and valuble feedback during actual competitions).  I've commented elsewhere in this forum for a move towards multiple choice questions for the written format (to thoroughly assess the candidate's knowledge base)--it is the format that nearly every professional body uses to assess the members of its society for licensure or board-certification, etc.  I'd also like more training and weight be given for sensory training and "practical" evaluations of beers.  In my view, it is this skill that needs to be more rigorously developed and fairly assessed. 
I'm sure we all have judging stories to tell about having to churn through a flight of meads in an hour to get everything done by the end of the competition.  This annoys me (as I don't like ripping through a flight like that as a judge), nor do I think it is fair to the efforts of each individual homebrewer who took the time, expense, and effort to submit the beer/mead.  It is also an interesting phenomenon to note that we may have planned to judge a flight or two or three, but socializing and using the hospitality room tends to have a tendency during the acual competition to cull the pool of available judges, as well.

Online dbeechum

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2011, 10:10:20 AM »
I can tell you that the BJCP exam is undergoing some work to make things faster.

The big problem for the BJCP is the availability of exam graders. Think the availability of judges is a problem? Try finding judges ranked national and above who have the time and willingness to volunteer 4-5 hours grading an exam in batches of 12 at a time.

We have one competition around here that pays judges, but it's a commercial competition and for reasons I can't explain, it makes me uncomfortable.
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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2011, 10:16:04 AM »
just a couple thoughts:

I judge because I love it, because I need/want the experience, because it helps my own brewing, and I don't really need compensation of any kind.  Discounted blocks of hotel rooms are always nice though.  Someone crafted this beer, and I feel lucky that they're willing to share and are interested in my feedback.

second, although there's really no better way to do it, making sure you're having competitions where there's big populations of judges is a bit circular.  Are the competitions there because there are a lot of judges?  Or are there a lot of judges in the area because there are a lot of competitions? 

On that note I can't think of a single competition within 2 hours of my home, though thankfully there's a couple within 3 hours.  Two weeks ago I gladly drove 6 hours to Ft Worth to help them judge, and I hope I did justice to all the effort people made to brew those beers and send them out for review.  Judging in Denver is 8 hours away.  Last summer I gladly drove 700 miles to judge in Indianapolis as I enjoy the well-run Brewer's Cup competition.  It's a hobby, and as such I fit vacations around my beer schedule or combine the two.

Some of the individual NHC first round locations could be a lot better organized.  Way too many people sauntering into the room in Texas over a 4 hour period "OK, I'm here, and I'm ready to judge!"  Commit to showing up at a certain time and follow through with it.  And on the organizer's side, the morning of such a large competition isn't the best time to be figuring out judging assignments.

Basically, I love beer. It's frickin' awesome!
Asking to be paid for doing this makes me feel like a greedy a-hole. 
But that's just, like, my opinion, man.

(tried for my two cents worth; I'd say I got at least halfway there.)

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Offline MDixon

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2011, 10:44:19 AM »
As someone who was a past judge director for our region I can tell you it is a buttload of work to host unless you have a team on board. Our problem was we tried to handle everything with the local club and our club was burned out from our own competition so two of us made it happen. In order to pull it off we judged in two cities simultaneously, then another date in one city and then some additional judging sessions just to finish.

As far as paying judges, if you ain't got the time, you ain't got the time. This year I would have had to travel 8+ hours to assist and didn't have the time anyway. $50 wouldn't begin to cover the expenses associated with helping out...now if it were 2 hours down the road, $50 would be a huge amount to receive...I'm like Drew, kinda makes me uneasy hearing thoughts on getting paid. I could see getting reimbursed for a particular expense, but not an across the line payment...
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2011, 11:13:00 AM »
I agree with the point Richardt made regarding the emphasis of the exam.  I sat for it for the first time last year, and subsequently judged in my first two contests.  Since you get to use the BJCP Guidelines during judging, I really don't see why its so important to have committed a large part of that to memory.  On the other hand, having a decent list of adjectives at your disposal and enough sensory training to put them to use properly, is most important.  Its not that I think just anybody can be a decent judge, but I do think that we could get more people qualified and there certainly seems to be a lot of interest at this time.  I think the BJCP should capitalize on this.

I'm with you Michael, my wife and I schedule little mini-vacations around these events and it is a good time.  I live 100 miles from any major city so I'd certainly take $50/day but not having it wouldn't impede my volunteering.  Its more a matter of time than money that keeps me from doing more than one every few months.

As to the original viewpoint, I could see basing the amount of the stipend on the qualifications of the judge.  Say $25 for Recognized and Certified, $50 for National and GM.  That would be an incentive to move up in rank.  I would also think that experience in terms of number of events judged, should come into play in your rank at some point.
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Re: National Homebrewing Competition Fees and Support
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2011, 11:14:28 AM »
I will be devoting my time to judge/help at most events in the Puget Sound area - but, then again, this is not one of the areas where finding enough judges is as big of an issue as it is in other areas of the country. 
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