Open source beer?
You’re already using open source software.
Maybe you’re running a Linux-based operating system or web browsing with Mozilla Firefox. Wikipedia is your go-to for open source content. This blog runs on the open source WordPress blogging platform. It’s called open source because the source code is right there for anyone to learn from or tinker with, and you don’t have to pay a royalty or fee to the license holder.
A group of students at Copenhagen’s IT-University, together with Superflex, a Copenhagen-based artist collective, wanted to see what happens when the open source principles are applied outside the digital world. The students brewed a batch of beer in their school cafeteria, dubbing it Free Beer version 1.0. They created a website where they offer the beer for sale, but anyone can download the recipe, label designs, and other branding elements at no cost.
They sell it? Hold on a second, that’s not free beer.
The really geeky part is that Free Beer is kind of an inside joke. The open source movement has a slogan: “Think free,” the movement’s founder, Richard Stallman puts it, “as in free speech, not free beer.” Free, in this sense, is a matter of liberty, not price. With a beer recipe, as with software code, it can be used for any purpose and modified in any way the user chooses. And users have the freedom to charge any price they want for the beer they create from any version of the recipe. What they can’t do is lock up the knowledge behind the modifications. Recipe derivations have to be shared with the Free Beer community for anyone to use.
Taste it for yourself.
The Free Beer recipe has spread around the globe and is currently brewed on every continent. It reached the U.S. this summer with the release of version 4.1 in Los Angeles. Every six months the original Copenhagen brewers at Superflex continue to cook up a new version of the recipe.
The recipe and the Free Beer brand are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (same as Gigabiting). It can all be freely used for pleasure or profit with attribution, and any future output has to be published under the same license.
You can learn more about the free software movement from the GNU Project.