The Open Source Brewing Movement
The internet has had a monumental impact on bringing together like-minded folks to freely share education and creativity. The information sharing juggernaut has also been integrated into the craft beer brewing community. Nowhere is this more evident than a growing number of professional, for-profit, breweries openly sharing their beer recipes with homebrewers (and often, their primary customer). They’ve taken one of their most valuable intellectual assets and put it out there for the community to embrace and learn from.
The Open Source Spectrum
There are a number of breweries that openly share their recipes. A few that come to mind are Modern Times, Avery, Deschutes, and Ballast Point. There is a spectrum of open source ranging from all of their recipes, to a few select beers, to sharing the ingredients but not the proportions. However, these brewers obviously embrace their homebrewing roots and provide a platform for others to either recreate a known entity or use it as a springboard to something altogether different.
I spoke with Kenny McNutt, one of the owners of MadTree Brewing Company, about the subject. Kenny shares, “So much more goes into taste than the base recipe. You’ve got geometries and personalities of the equipment, mods to the process, WATER, ingredient sourcing, yeast management, and things intangible like brand.”
For MadTree, it wasn’t a reason of why would they disclose their recipes but why not.They have planned on releasing their recipes since before they opened but silly stuff like actual beer brewing and business-running have gotten in the way. However, my badgering should hopefully get it put back on the priority list. You might even get them to share it with you directly if you ask nicely on a day when they’re not too busy.
Current Open Source Brewers
A relatively new brewery out of San Diego, they have chosen to post all of their recipes on the popular Beer Smith brewing software’s cloud service. They currently have 15 different recipes posted in convenient standard 5 gallon batch formats. About the only thing not shared is the water composition. While they do not distribute in the Cincinnati area, it should be pretty easy to trade for their canned beers – especially when you can return the favor with our local cans – if you want to benchmark your efforts.
Updated 4/21/2014: MadTree recipes now posted at www.madtreebrewing.com! They have posted recipes for 5-gallon batches that tell you pretty much everything but the yeast strain. Although, one could probably take some educated guesses on which to use your ask for advice by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You will also find many of the recipes for the seasonal releases!
This famous San Diego brewery grew out of the back of a homebrew store (which they still continue to operate) and has recently launched a “Homework” series of beers with the recipes printed right on the bottle labels. Currently, they have released two beers under the Homework label, a hoppy red ale and a Belgian-style double IPA. Pay close attention as the recipes vary between 10 and 5-gallon batches.
The well known Georgia brewer (which should be coming to our area some time in 2014) has provided the ingredients for their beers but not the corresponding volumes so it will take a bit more skill and/or trial-and-error to nail their recipes.
Now that they have made their way to Ohio, we can easily sample the desired result while using their loose recipe guidance to take a stab at making your own. They provide detailed information with the exception of the temperatures, times, and weights. Therein lies the challenge and the reward when you nail it.
I am only speculating here, but I suspect this open source mentality will continue to gain momentum. It becomes another way for a brewery to connect with their fans as well as promote the homebrew and general craft beer movement.
Also, just because it isn’t posted online doesn’t mean the brewery isn’t willing to share or help. I’ve received a boatload of knowledge from Scott LaFollette of Blank Slate Brewing Company about homebrewing. Just don’t be a jerk about it and make it worth their time. I suggest you have specific questions and demonstrate a passion and respect for brewing, rather than just plopping down and demanding they tell you how to make beer.
Cheers and good luck, brewers!