Must be a slow news day or something – the story about Open Source beer banging around various weblogs and linklogs I read. Okay, so the idea is great, make a beer recipe with a Creative Commons share-alike licence which people can download, use for free, make derivative works, etc.
But, it’s nothing more than a crappy gimmick. For starters, the recipe they have isn’t that much more informative about making beer than what’s currently available in the public domain, or on other websites (this brewing site, which I found while Googling, looks quite interesting, and is far more informative). More importantly, the knowledge required to brew beer successfully is not the kind that benefits from an open-content licence; it’s highly complex and often quite tacit – what the different strains of yeasts, varieties of grain and their carbohydrate content, the time of year and ambient temperature, the complicated business of sterilising containets – all these factors are quite hard to get a handle on and to make things worse, the complexity increases once you start combining them.*
These things are hard to spell out exactly. To publish a beer recipe is an amusing diversion, but on its own, it’s about as informative as posting source code without comments, if not worse – all the information of any use is outside the grasp of the written word.
* I am not a brewing expert; however my father used to be quite into making wine, sherry and later on, mead, and I suspect many of the problems he encountered similarly apply to the beer industry.