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Why aren't swing type caps permitted for competition?
There is a reason for each rule. For example, having bottles larger than 14 ounces (and of differing design) can and does cause problems with handling and storage. This is especially true when trying to stack entries in case boxes. Most competitions require more than one bottle because an extra bottle will be needed for those entries moving on to the best of show round. We get over two hundred entries each year so that means we have to stack and store those bottles carefully and transport them to the competition site with a minimal of jostling and possible breakage. This takes time and people who are willing to lug the mead around. Trust me when I say, one odd sized bottle in a case just adds to the possibility of breakage during transport.
Distinctive and easily identifiable shaped bottles, colored bottles (other than brown), raised lettering etc all make the bottles easy to identify. We take very clear steps to ensure that no judges or stewards come in contact with mead that they have entered during the competition. However, this does not preclude a judge from recognizing a bottle (like a blue corked bottle, or any other distinctive bottle) of a friend who has entered. If a judge is familiar with the bottles used by a friend it introduces bias and an unfair advantage if the judge is predisposed to favor his friend's mead.
This forces us into a very awkward position when we receive bottles that aren't bottled to the standard. We have to disqualify the entry. We can't return the mead because we can't afford the shipping and don't have the materials to do so. In some cases if someone is kind enough to donate empty 12 ounce beer bottles we can re-bottle and crown cap some of the non-compliant entries. Again, this takes time, material and people resource (finding a local with a crown capper, bottles, sanitizer, siphons, etc.) we really don't have. We can also pour the mead into glasses somewhere out of the judges sight (additional glasses, stewards, handlers and possible breakage of the glasses as they're transported to the judging table) and bring it to the judging table already poured. Once again, time, resource and people that we don't have.
Most competitions can and do use two bottles per entry. The first bottle is used for the first round; the second bottle for the Best Of Show (BOS) round if the beer wins its category. Three bottles does mean that judges don’t have to save 1⁄2 bottles for Best Of Style (Mini-BOS), or second rounds. It also provides for an extra bottle in case of breakage. Three bottles also means that your mead doesn't have to sit opened and exposed to air through the lunch break and beyond if your mead was judged in the first morning rounds, and is moving on to the BoS or Mini BoS round.
Bottom line is we're doing this on a very limited budget, with limited personnel, time, and space. We need to make this as simple to manage and store as is possible with the resources we have at hand. Many of us are flying halfway across the country to be there and judge, steward, manage and oversee the event. We're also incurring the expense of doing so individually. I personally do not enter my meads in this event because I feel it is unseemly to do so, and I would rather avoid any hint of impropriety than to compromise the integrity of the event.
Even with the care we take, if I were to win a medal at this event many people would feel there was favoritism shown. We (and most other competitions) get complaints from people that their mead did not get fair consideration and that the judging was biased in favor of "friends" of the judges and competition organizers. This is one area where we are different than other "club" hosted competitions, that is, we are not a homebrew club hosting a competition in a local or geographic area, we are a geographically diverse group and the competition is club independent, so no "good old boys" network is running the show.
My advice to all who want to use their own special bottles is that most national, BJCP sanctioned competitions you're going to enter use this standard, and it's a proven and successful model. Is it perfect? Nope, but it's what we're working with at present, and that doesn't mean we won't change it down the road, but for now this represents the simplest, safest and most economical process for this competition.