A group of students at the Information Technology Univeristy in Copenhagen, Denmark have created the first open source beer, Vores Oel. That's right, open source. A beer with a publicly available recipe, available for reproduction and modification for free...as long as it's marketed under the Creative Commons License.

The students came up with the idea when asked by their workshop supervisor asked them to consider the applications of the open source concept to non-digital fields. They picked beer because, well, they're college students and beer and college make for amusement. Their first brew came out as a heavier, darker lager than the popular Danish Carlsberg and is self-described as "a medium strong beer (6% vol) with a deep golden red color and an original but familiar taste". The students also added guarana, that South American berry that you'd usually find in various energy drinks to help combat the lethargy that tends to set in after a few drinks.

Personal microbrews aren't anything new, but the idea of having the recipe available for free to anyone definitely is. While allowing room for the refinement of the beverage to exacting personal tastes, open source also makes additional "features" to be created safely on a stable platform. Adventurous microbrewers, under the Creative Commons License, are allowed to make whatever modifications they like and even sell the beer for profit, as long as their particular recipe is publicly available and the original recipe is credited. The idea is a challenge to "proprietary" beers like Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing Co. and will hopefully see the success of open source spread into other realms. It worked plenty fine for Linux.

The brew seems to be doing quite well, as the students have received interest from local Danes wanting to market their beer as well as microbrewers from Mexico, Brazil, and Afghanistan. And their first batch of 100 liters, brewed in their school's cafeteria, mind you, has been drunk.

Personally, I think this is a wonderful idea. Open source is self-regulating so (eventually) the good things get better, the bugs get worked out, and the bad get weeded out. Quality control and beta testing is essentially performed by the market and dedicated testers. Now, this is of some concern when we're talking about consumables, particularly pharmaceuticals, an area the creaters would like to see open source methods take hold. However, since modifications of open source code is immediately scrutinized by the author's peers, the self-regulatory nature of open source still reigns. Have you seen how fast a CVS works? Also, open source leaves tons of room for creativity and innovation, always good things.

The students have a website at Vores Oel. The international market name is Our Beer, version 1.0 (cute).


lj says: the recipe described by the recipe document is not copyrightable (http://www.thecopyrightsite.org/faq.html#recipe)...Also, 'first open source beer' is inaccurate; it's really only the first beer recipe with a viral license
According to The Jargon File, open source is "rights to freely use, modify, and redistribute". Vores Oel is self-declared open source and under the Attribution and Share-Alike CC Licenses specifically. The creators have stated that in marketing of beer produced from their recipe or a derivative of, the marketer must publish the recipe from which the beer was brewed under the same or like licenses.
lj also points out that, obviously, homebrewers have been trading recipes since they've had recipes and that CC is a license, not a contract, which can be easily ignored. But it wouldn't be very nice. And you could be sued. lj says: "Although the CC license is a conditional grant of license and not a contract, that doesn't mean you can violate it. If you distribute the recipe and break the terms of the CCL, you can be sued for copyright infringement. However, because it works under copyright law, it can only permit you to exercise rights reserved to copyright holders (and it can impose conditions you must fulfil to gain these permissions); it can't impose any new restrictions on someone not doing anything reserved under copyright law. If you don't accept the license, you can still exercise the rights you already have. In this case, you have the right to make and says sell the beer, just as if you were to buy ' how to cook ', you could make and sell Delia's lasagne in your pub (importantly, you couldn't call it that; 'Delia Smith' is a trademark whihc you would be infringing), because the process itself cannot be says copyrighted, merely the description of it (which is no more contained in the beer than Delia's recipe would be in her food)." Thanks lj for clearing legal jargon up for me.