Free Beer

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Free Beer
Label of Free Beer 3.2.
Country of origin Denmark
Related productsOpenCola (drink) Edit this on Wikidata
Free Beer "St Austell" (version 3.2) (2007).
Superflex Workshop: "Free Beer Factory" event on the Taipei Biennial 2010 in Taipeh, Taiwan[1]
Free Beer sale on the Isummit 2008 Sapporo, Japan illustrates "Free as in Freedom, not free as in free beer": recipe and label under CC-BY-SA ("Free as in freedom") but not gratis ("free as free beer") as the beer is sold for 500 Yen.[2]
Anti-copyright activity with a "Free Beer version 3.2 St. Austell" mascot: "Copyright is preventing access to knowledge" (2007)

Free Beer, originally known as Vores Øl (English: Our Beer), is a Danish brand of beer that markets itself as being the world's first open-source beer.[3] The beer was created in 2004 by students at the IT University of Copenhagen and the artist collective Superflex, to illustrate how concepts of the FOSS movement might be applied outside of the digital world.[4] In contrast to the practice of trade secrets, the Free Beer brand advocates for the free sharing of recipes and formulas, analogizing it to the FOSS movement's open sharing of software and source code.[5] Free Beer operates by sharing its recipe and trademark elements under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA license, with breweries and individuals.[6]


Vores Øl[edit]

In December 2004, a group of IT University of Copenhagen students and Superflex brewed a 100-litre batch of dark heavy beer in their school's cafeteria. The group labelled the beer Vores øl (Danish for Our Beer) after a 1994 Carlsberg beer advertisement slogan. A website was created to promote the project, and the beer's recipe and label designs were published under an open-source Creative Commons license, specifically the CC-BY-SA 2.5 license. Unlike software, cooking recipes aren't copyrightable, so the share-alike/copyleft licensing approach is legally questionable and untested in court. After its publication, the project received an overall positive reception from the international press and media for the political message.

Concept extension Free Beer[edit]

The developers of the beer stated that the beer was primarily a medium for the message of "dogmatic notions of copyright and intellectual property that are dominating our culture",[7] and admitted that the group had only limited experience in beer production and was not made up of beer gurus. The addition of the non-traditional beer ingredient Guaraná was also partly inspired politically by a previously 2003 initiated Superflex project, "Guaraná Power",[8] which focused on the support of Brazilian guaraná farmers with Fair trade.

After the first "Vores Øl" brewing of the open-source beer concept, Superflex continued to develop the concept under the name Free Beer. A new colorful, unusual Free Beer artwork should create associations with the "60's [artistic] liberation" and underline the freedom aspect of the concept.[9] The later name Free Beer is a play on Richard Stallman's common remark that free software is "free as in speech, not free as in beer",[10] who also suggested the creation of "Free software beer" instead of an "open source beer".[11]

Recipe development[edit]

While the first "Vores øl" recipe drew some technical criticism, the recipe was continuously updated and identified shortcomings were fixed. Originally, the homebrewing community complained about the quality of the process and ingredient description.[12] Remarks were that it was not stated how much water to use in the mash, what type of yeast was to be used, the style of beer being produced (other than being dark and heavy), whether or not any hops were being added for aroma, fermentation temperature, or how the beer was supposed to taste. Making reference to the technical problems of when software instructions ("source code") cannot be made into a functioning program, it was mentioned that if this recipe were source code, it would not compile.[13] Because of the underlying theme of the group's message, the correction and development of this recipe is actively encouraged (in software terminology "bug fixing and patches").

Due to the availability of the recipe and the many Free Beer brewings of breweries and individuals worldwide over the course of years, the recipe was updated several times. Later major Free Beer recipe iterations (v3.0 and 4.0) were also developed in collaboration with a local Danish and experienced brewery, Skands in Brøndby.[14][15] As previous recipe shortcomings were corrected, for instance the amount of sugar was decreased by 90%, the quality of the beer improved significantly.[16] The recipe's version, which has now reached 6.0 in 2017, illustrates the community's continuous collaborative improvement progress, made possible by the "open source" nature of Free Beer.[17]

Version Codename Date Brewery/Comments
6.0 "The Atlantic Brew" October 30, 2017 Summerskills brewery in Devonport, Plymouth[18]
4.1 August 25, 2010 Brewery in Huntington Beach, California
4.1 "Artspace" October 2008 Steam Brewing Company in Newton, Auckland, New Zealand[19]
4.0 "SKANDS" September 2008 brewed at Skands Microbrewery in Brøndby, Danemark
3.5 "Hops & Barley" March 2008 By the Hops & Barley microbrewery Berlin, Germany[20]
3.4 "Germania" November 2007 Brewer: Arnaldo Ribero, Germania brewery in Sao Paulo, Brasil[21]
3.3 Linghzi November 2007 brewed in collaboration with Everything Mushroom, Knoxville, Tennessee
3.2 “St Austell” July 2007 brewed at St Austell Brewery in Cornwall, England.
3.0 “Skands” June 2006 brewed at Skands Microbrewery in Brøndby, Danemark[22] (and more[23])
2.1 “Apollo” August 2006 brewed at the Apollo Microbrewery in Copenhagen[24]
2.0 “Apollo” 2005 brewed at the Apollo Microbrewery in Copenhagen.
1.5 “Samvirke” ? suited for home-brewing
1.1 FREE BEER May 20, 2005 first time served under the name Free Beer on the Volksbühne Berlin[25][26]
1.0 “Vores Øl” December 2004[27] brewed by students at the IT university in Copenhagen together with Superflex

Derived beers[edit]

Under its free license, this free beer encourages others to tweak the recipe and redistribute it. Commercial or amateur brewers are able to reuse the recipe. Known derivatives include:

Others took the political idea of an "open/free beer" (not Free Beer recipe and label), opened their own beer recipes and/or artwork, often under free licenses:[32]

  • United States/Frederick: Flying Dog Brewery created in July 2007 an open source beer called "Collaborator Doppelbock" (while without specified license).[32][33][34]
  • Switzerland/Zürich: In 2008, project 21's "FreeBeer" brewed by "Wädi-Brau-Huus" in Wädenswil[35] with own recipe and label.[36][37]
  • Germany/Hannover: In March 2009 a free Red Beer was brewed for a local Wikipedia group meeting in context of CeBIT under the name "HannoverWikiRed"[38][39]
  • Italy/Farigliano: In 2008 the Baladin craft-brewery released "open-source" beer and made the recipes public.[40][41]
  • United States/Rockville: "Our Nation's Attic - American Pale Ale", beer recipe and label under CC0, an American pale ale brewed by "Living Proof Brewery" in 2011.[42]
  • New Zealand/Wellington Yeastie Boys' Digital IPA was released in late 2011 and won in 2012 a Gold Award of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand.[43] The Digital IPA's recipe has been made widely available under a CC-SA-BY 3.0 license to enable home brewers to brew their own versions.[44][45]
  • Germany/Berlin: In 2012 Metamate created a mate infused beer named "Mier" under the CC-BY-NC-SA license,[46][47][48][49] which was served for instance on the "EHSM - the frontiers of open source and DIY" meeting on DESY in 2014. The commercial production for the German market failed mostly due to the Reinheitsgebot which forbids additions like Mate, while the Mier recipe was adapted successfully for the Czech market.[50]
White House Honey Ale, a kind of Free Beer as the recipe is into the public domain (2012).

Reception and impact[edit]

Since its first presentation, Free Beer was often reported by international printed and online media,[55][56][57][58] and also discussed in specialist books regarding copyright.[59] Free Beer received an overall positive reception from international press for the political message,[55][56][57][58] was presented on many exhibitions and conferences, and inspired many breweries in adopting the concept.

Free Beer project was also well received by the FOSS and open content movement, for instance by Richard Stallman,[11] Cory Doctorow,[60][61] and Lawrence Lessig.[2][62][63] It was presented and sold on several technology conferences and meetings, for instance the "Isummit 2008" and the RMLL 2011, 2012, and 2014.[30][64] The FSCONS 2008 resulted also in a CC-BY-SA licensed Ebook with Free Beer artwork and title.[65][66] Free Beer was shown also in the context of several art exhibitions and museums, for instance the Art Basel Miami Beach 2006, the Van Abbemuseum, Netherlands 2007 or the Taipei Biennial 2010 (sponsored by TTL[67]).[1] Free Beer was also used in the context of anti-copyright activities and movements, illustrating the advantage of open knowledge for the society.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Program Archived 2015-07-03 at the Wayback Machine on "Workshop: "FREE BEER factory", Superflex Sep.7, Tue.1500-1700, Venue: GOOGLE OFFICE, TFAM, Superflex inaugurates their work for TB10 with a free workshop. Learn to brew your own beer."
  2. ^ a b Lessig, Lawrence (2008-08-04). "How much RMS has won". Retrieved 2015-07-08. Just returning from the iCommons Summit in Sapporo, Japan. The Free Beer project made a showing, with a locally brewed version. But this ad caught my eye: "Free Beer" for "500 yen." We're now at the stage where (at least some) the RMS conception of "free" is clear enough so that even "free beer" is "free as in free speech" such that a price running with the free beer seems (again, to a select set no doubt) perfectly natural.
  3. ^ Danish students launch open source and shareware beer 30-12-2004 on (archived)
  4. ^ Drobnick, Jim (2018). "Bottles of Art, Works of Alcohol". Gastronomica. 18 (4): 54–70. doi:10.1525/gfc.2018.18.4.54. ISSN 1529-3262. JSTOR 26586442.
  5. ^ WIRED Staff. "Free, as in Beer". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2023-01-14.
  6. ^ "Superflex uses art to figure out a changing world: Danish art collective illustrates social issues in accessible ways". 2019-08-20. Retrieved 2023-01-14.
  7. ^ Adrian Harewood (2005-07-21). "Danish offer a recipe for open source beer". CBC Radio – As It Happens – Features. CBC Radio One. Archived from the original on 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  8. ^ "Guaraná Power" on "In 2003, SUPERFLEX initiated a collaboration with a guaraná farmers' cooperative from Maués in the Brazilian Amazon in order to produce the Guaraná Power soft drink. The farmers have organised themselves."
  9. ^ Koch, Rasmus (2007-01-01). "Free Beer". Rasmus Koch Studio. Retrieved 2015-08-24. FREE BEER refers to information freedom, not economic freedom. [...] Designing a visual program for an idea that reflects upon open source and information freedom can not be a solution with rigid design guidelines. Other models of interpretation had to be exercised. The resulting solution builds on a vivid and colorful reference to 60's liberation. Practically speaking this means "free the colours". No one color has the ability to rule or over set another. Only one spectral rule governs: NEVER USE ONE COLOR TWICE.
  10. ^ The Free Software Definition - Free Software Foundation on
  11. ^ a b Richard Stallman on free beer on „HM: Now, in the same email, you also suggest that we call the beer a free software beer instead of an open source beer- RMS: Yes, I founded the free software movement [...] HM: - so if you could pretend that you were reviewing the idea of a free beer? RMS: I love the idea as long as I don’t have to drink it“ (2005)
  12. ^ Free Beer That's Free as in Speech on Slashdot
  13. ^ If this recipe were code, it wouldn't compile. You'd have to guess at the yeast type and boil times for the hops. by Vellmont on
  14. ^ Photos of FREE BEER 3.0 at final production stage on "Master brewer Birthe Skands describes 3.0 as a ”traditional, top fermented beer with a very high drinkability factor" (Friday, June 9, 2006)
  15. ^ FREE BEER VERSION 4.0 on (Thursday, October 8, 2009)
  16. ^ "FREE BEER recipe". Retrieved 2010-09-11.
  17. ^ "Free as in free speech" - LA Release for SUPERFLEX’s FREE BEER Archived 2015-06-26 at the Wayback Machine Monday, August 16, 2010
  18. ^ FREE BEER 6.0 – The Atlantic Brew on (October 2017)
  19. ^ If Value, Then Copy Archived 2016-01-25 at the Wayback Machine at
  20. ^ FREE BEER macht sich schön für die re:publica by Nicole (09 March 2008)
  21. ^ Free Beer on
  22. ^ "Bryggeriet Skands".
  23. ^ 2006 Status version 3.0 Archived 2015-06-22 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Free Beer version 2.1 on the Apollo brewery in Copenhagen Archived 2015-06-22 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Superflex on (May 2005)
  26. ^ Wer will schon eine würdelose alte Frau? by Jens Balzer in Berliner Zeitung (in German, 24.05.2005)
  27. ^ oldest web entry (archived)
  28. ^ Free beer et le baiser de la princesse les bieres open source (in French)
  29. ^ (in French)
  30. ^ a b ""RMLL has free beer as in speech" blog article". Archived from the original on 2011-10-16. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  31. ^ Affichage Libre beer recipe (in French)
  32. ^ a b Harris, Lissa (2007-09-01). "Free Beer - What's not to love?". BeerAdvocate magazine #9. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  33. ^ open-source-beer-recipe-finalized on (archived)
  34. ^ wild-dog-collaborator-doppelbock-label on (archived)
  35. ^ project 21: recipe (German)
  36. ^ Archived 2015-07-03 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Ein Copyright-Trick machts möglich: Freibier für alle[permanent dead link] in Tages-Anzeiger on 3.03.2008 (in German)
  38. ^ CC-BY-SA recipe for HannoverWikiRed (archived, in German)
  39. ^ HannoverWikiRed: Open-Source-Bier angestochen on (09.03.2009, in German)
  40. ^ Birra 2.0. Teo Musso e l’open source Baladin in by Paolo Mazzola (Italian, October 2010)
  41. ^ recipes[permanent dead link] on
  42. ^ Our Nation’s Attic, an American Pale Ale by Thomas Gideon on (2011-08-13)
  43. ^ "Yeastie Boys win gold for open source beer". 2012-08-21. Retrieved 2015-07-24. Yeastie Boys win gold for open source beer
  44. ^ a b Brown, Casey (2012-08-31). "Beer brings people together: Obama, homebrewers, and online communities". Retrieved 2015-07-25. The Yeastie Boys Digital IPA has also been frequently tossed around in conversations in the open source community over the past few days. To describe the beer, the Yeastie Boys' website states, "Just as the term digital is all about zeroes and ones, the concept of IPA is all about malts and hops." This beer stands out from other homebrews because the Yeastie Boys cleverly put QR codes on the bottles that link to the recipe, so you can try the brew yourself. They also link to different forms of social media so fans can easily share their tweaked recipes.
  45. ^ digital-ipa-recipe on
  46. ^ Mate-Bier aus Berlin: Das Spiel mit dem Kult Archived 2015-07-07 at the Wayback Machine, in Berliner Zeitung on 13. March 2012 (in German)
  47. ^ Spangenberg, Christoph (2012-12-31). "Prost: Bier mit Mate und Absinth: Da braut sich was zusammen" (in German). Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
  48. ^ Mier’s CC License Archived 2014-11-12 at the Wayback Machine on
  49. ^ MIER; Nicht nur MATE, nicht nur BIER! Archived 2014-02-18 at the Wayback Machine (in German)
  50. ^ Mier – failure attempt to CC license as mass market consume good on cccamp15 by Fabricio do Canto (Aug 15, 2015)
  51. ^ Ale to the Chief: White House Beer Recipe on (1 September 2012)
  52. ^ Cerveceros Artesanales de Entre Rios (2015-09-16). "Digital IPA Litoral". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2022-02-26. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  53. ^ BrewDog “open-sources” its beer recipes Archived 2016-07-26 at the Wayback Machine on Scottish Business News Network (February 25, 2016)
  54. ^ BrewDog’s open-source revolution is at the vanguard of postcapitalism by Paul Mason on The Guardian (29 February 2016)
  55. ^ a b 'Free' Danish beer makes a splash on BBC News
  56. ^ a b Pass Over a Frosty Mug of Home Brew Version 1.0 in The New York Times (2005)
  57. ^ a b "Free Beer for Geeks" on Wired News by David Cohn
  58. ^ a b Kopenhagen: Studenten brauen Open-Source-Bier in Spiegel Online (in German)
  59. ^ Macmillan, Fiona (2007). New Directions in Copyright Law, Volume 6. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 69–70. ISBN 9781782543718. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  60. ^ Danish hackers launch Free Beer 3.0, with guarana by Cory Doctorow on (Jun 9, 2006)
  61. ^ Cory Doctorow with freebeer on flickr (2007)
  62. ^ Lessig, Lawrence (September 2006). "Free, as in beer". Wired. Retrieved 2009-03-18. In June, a Copenhagen artists' collective called Superflex released version 3.0 of a new beer called – you guessed it – Free Beer. "Free beer?" you ask. "Think free," Superflex members helpfully explained at the launch, "as in free software."
  63. ^ lessig&ccwfreebeerSMALL.jpg by Henrik Moltke
  64. ^ Bière Libre Archived 2015-06-26 at the Wayback Machine on RMLL 2012 (in French)
  65. ^ FREE BEER book out now. Archived 2015-06-29 at the Wayback Machine Thursday, November 26, 2009
  66. ^ Free Beer on (2009)
  67. ^ 2010 Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp. 5000 Bottles of “Free Beer Taiwan” in Taipei Biennial 2010
  68. ^ Danes Get Serious About CC-Free Beer on
  69. ^ FREE BEER at the Art Basel, Miami Archived 2015-06-22 at the Wayback Machine on

External links[edit]