You are correct if you’ve figured out that a project to create “open source” beer doesn’t mean you end up drinking beer that you get for free.
Sunday’s Boston Globe (free registration) offered the best explanation we’ve seen of the philosophy behind open source software and how the concept might be extended to other areas – such as the production of beer.
“Free software” began in the early 1980s when software developers first started asserting intellectual property rights over their works. The problem wasn’t so much that developers were making money off software, but rather that, by asserting these rights, they were no longer allowing the free and informal sharing of code. The free software movement’s objection, which was largely cast in moral terms, was essentially that while charging money for software was fine — everyone has to eat — it is not right to prevent others from using, studying, distributing, or improving on it.
The concept, and practices, of open source sprung from this.
Although the Free Beer project is fun – don’t you smile just saying the words? – brewers have been sharing information about how to brew better beer pretty much since they first learned how to make it.