I just got this in my AHA newsletter...
From: Kevin A. Kutskill [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2006 6:25 PM
Subject: AHA National Competition Problem
This has been an intense topic of discussion on the BJCP newsgroup, JudgeNet, and a suggestion was made to bring the discussion over to a more appropriate venue, so here we go (pardon me for the length of this post, but a lot of posts have been made on the subject over the past few days).
AHA member, BJCP judge, and CRAFT homebrew club president Bill Gornicki posted a message on May 8th, expressing frustration at the fact that Jamil Zainasheff, AHA's 2004 Ninkasi Award winner, entered his beers in the Great Lakes region for the National Homebrew Competition's first round. Though he lives in California, because he is Competition Director for his home region, he is supposed to enter his beers in another region, to prevent any accusations of impropriety in the judging process. Jamil took 18 awards in the Great Lakes first round, which lead to Bill's original post of frustration. This was followed by several posts from other members of JudgeNet, basically telling Bill to get over it, if Jamil is a better brewer, don't whine about it, and strive to be a better brewer yourself..
Bill and others then responded, clarifying what their concerns were, which seemed to come down to the fact that Jamil's homebrew club, QUAFF has been able to monopolize the AHA's Homebrew Club of the Year competition for the last 5 years. QUAFF is a very large homebrew club, what I would term a "superclub", apparently with around 140 members, and characterized by one of their own members as having "close to a hundred really great brewers". There is nothing against such a large club entering the AHA NHC first round in their own region (the Southwest region) and winning the Homebrew Club of the Year, but by having some of its members being able to enter a large number of their beers in other NHC first round regions, it does skew the point awards for determining the AHA Homebrew Club of the Year. I hope these concerns were clearly summarized in my post on JudgeNet, which is repeated below:
"I'm not going to get into the ethics of which region Jamil (or anyone else) enters, but by entering so many beers, he did manage to take almost 1/4 of the award places in the Great Lakes region. His club may only get a maximum of 12 points per category, but by entering (and winning) in another region than his home club, he does effectively block other clubs from getting points for placing in that region.
Look at it this way (forgive me if my numbers are not exact, but you will get the idea): There are 10 regions to enter beers. 26 categories, three places in each category (1st, 2nd, and 3rd). That is 78 awards for each region, 780 awards total for the first round. If Jamil entered in his own region, he would be in competition with his own club, and would likely beat out some of his fellow members, and place in his own region. The maximum number of awards that QUAFF could get in this circumstance is 78. By allowing him to enter beers in another region, his club can still take 78 awards in his own region, while he has the opportunity to take 78 more awards for his club in another region. This is not only about getting points for Homebrew Club of the Year, it is also about preventing other clubs from getting points. QUAFF has the opportunity to monopolize 156 awards (20% of the total), while other clubs only have 78 awards (10% of the total) to work with. And if he is in another region winning with his beers, the other clubs have less of a chance to win. He obviously brews good beers, and I don't fault him for being a better brewer than others, but I do see this as a loophole that allows QUAFF and unfair advantage in points for Homebrew Club of the Year.
I must not have a big enough competitive spirit, and I am happy to rest on my laurels. In our club, we have a Homebrewer of the Year competition, and I won this award around 4 years ago. Since then, I have run the competition, and felt no need to compete, even though the rest of the club would have no problem with it. I brew great beer, I won the award once, and could likely win it again. I figure that it is time to let other members win, and have their moment in the spotlight. Jamil won the Ninkasa award (NHC Homebrewer of the Year) in 2004, and if he wants to continue to compete and try to win again, more power to him. Jamil is probably more competitive than I am, and that is alright by me. I just wish it would not skew the possible point accumulation for the Homebrew Club of the Year in the process. It would probably be too much to ask to have the First Round site directors and judge coordinators not compete the years they are running the competition; we would probably have much less volunteers to run the competition. There should be a way to close this loophole, though."
Now, one may argue that even if Jamil did not enter beers at all, QUAFF would still garner enough points to with Homebrew Club of the Year, and that may be true. But when you are talking about a group as big as QUAFF (and the potential points they can collect for the Homebrew Club of the Year), every possible award and its associated points are very important to any other club that may be trying to win the Homebrew Club of the Year. Basically, all other smaller clubs have little chance to win against such a large brew club like QUAFF, and when a great brewer like Jamil enters beers in another region than his own, and wins 18 awards, the little chance that clubs in that region had to win Homebrew Club of the Year has now gotten much smaller.
Other members of the newsgroup also chimed in, with suggestions like eliminating the Homebrew Club of the Year award; or having two Homebrew Club of the Year awards, one for large clubs, one for small clubs. Other suggestions included letting the competition directors enter their beers in their own region they are organizing, with additional safeguards in place to ensure fairness; and restructuring the entire competition to more closely mirror the MCAB, with qualifying competitions for entering the National Homebrew Competition.
As I said at the start, a lot has been discussed on this topic over on JudgeNet, and I wish the discussion started over here in Tech Talk, because a lot of other good comments from respected homebrewers and judges were made, but didn't make it into this post. So--any comments or opinions?
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