I've never thought this has happened to me, but screw ups are always possible. As someone who has organized a couple of competitions and judged many more, it is possible that your bottle may have been mislabeled during the bottle sort. It is highly unlikely, but possible. The problem with 1st round NHC judging is there is no other bottle for the judges to request if they think there was an error.
IPAs are also a tough category to make an inquiry about, because they tend to trash the palate of even the best judges. I know by the time I've judged 10 IPAs my senses have been dulled. Did the cover sheets from each competition tell you where in the flight your beers were judged?
Congrats on pushing a beer through to the second round. Hope to see you on the stage in Seattle!
I guess it is always possible that I screwed up and sent a blond ale, but I don't see how. The IPA was bottled and labeled on a different day than I bottled the blond ale and I am not a bottle short of the blond ale. Plus the two didn't get switched since the blond did well with comments fitting the beer. I guess it is alway possible that one of my friend might have thought it funny to switch some of my labels around?
The sheet did not indicate the flight position so i guess palate fatigue could be an issue ... that would be a really fatigued palate though. There was ~1 lb of hops used for the 10 gallon batch (lots of late additions and dry hoping), so you would have needed to burn out all your taste buds for the hops to be "imperceptible". I thought that perhaps I ended up with someone else's score sheet, but I checked the entry numbers on the score sheet and they matched.
Maybe someone else out there is going to get a score sheet back detailing how their brew has way too much hop character for style ...
Definately excited for second round and looking forward to a Seattle vacation in June.