Free Software and Beer: Not just for breakfast anymore!


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Nov 16, 2011 GMT
Jon maddog Hall


Those of you who know me also know that I like a little beer every once in a while. Some of you also know that I often brew my own beer at an establishment called Incredibrew in Nashua, New Hampshire very close to my home, and sometimes use this beer at various Free Software events.


Incredibrew is known as a “brew-on-premises” or “BOP” for short. At a BOP you will find all the materials and equipment necessary to brew, label and bottle significant quantities of your own beer without all of the mess and clean-up necessary if you brew the beer in your own house.


Recently a friend of mine, Michel Grando, took me under his wing along with his friend Flavia and a mutual friend Lucas Mocellin, on a three-day trip from Florianopolis to Curitiba, Brazil where a friend of mine (Denis Galvão, the father of my godson) is opening both a Brew-pub and a brew-on-premises called “HopNRoll”. We were going to brew some beer for an event that will be happening on December 2nd, 3rd and 4th in Florianopolis called “Open Beach”. Unfortunately HopNRoll was not ready to brew the beer, although we were told it would be ready “RSN” (Real Soon Now). Of course we were disappointed in this revelation, but Michel (who is highly active in the home brewing community in Brazil) took the whole thing in stride and led us to several of his friends in the Curitiba area who also brew beer.


What does brewing beer have to do with Free Software? First of all there are closed-recipe, high volume, highly marketed “shrink-wrapped” beers that probably represent close to 90 per cent of the beer consumed. These beers you tend to see advertised on television or in newspapers and magazines, represented by the high profits provided in such a marketplace. They were the beers that took over the marketplace after prohibition ended in the United States. They are created (supposedly) for the "average" person, to please the "average" pallet. But that means you have to be "average" to enjoy them, and many people feel they do not like beer because it does not taste good.


On the other hand there are low-volume, “craft” beers produced by people who are often not as much interested in making lots of money as they are in producing very good and “different” beers, suited to the tastes of their customers. Often these craft brewers share their recipes and ideas freely, allowing others to build upon what they have done, and many times these people are engaged in some type of technological field other than the brewing industry. Brewing is another creative outlet for them.


Such a person is Murilo Foltran, who is not only a good software programmer, but makes his own cheese and smokes his own ham as well as making his own beer. But Murilo takes “home brewing” a step above what most people would do, and in his backyard he has a building that goes across the width of his yard that includes a BBQ and room for his kettles, heat exchangers, filters and “cold rooms” for maturing and filtering the beer he makes. This building bears the name of “DUM Cervejaria” and (of course) there is a website....


This day Murilo is organizing a BBQ for our small crew and some of this friends, who also brew their own beer and who brought several bottles of their own to share with people. One of those people is Anuar Tarabai, who owns “Flame Beer Brewery”, and has brought over a bottle of “F#%*ing Beer” (that is the name folks, please do not shoot the piano player...), which turns out to be a favorite of my friend Lucas.


As I said, for these crafts people it is more than just “making beer”, it is a calling to revolution, and there is a poster on the wall that suspiciously looks like a cross between Che Guevara and Homer Simpson that declares it a revolution, as do the awards and medals that their beers have won.


They asked me if I could make a statement about “craft beer”, and the resulting video can be found here. While watching the video you can try replacing every time I say “craft beer” with “Free Software”, every time I say “craft brewer” with “Free Software Developer” and every time I talk about “large beer companies” with “large software companies” to get the “secret message”. The same technique works well for this whole article.


After a significant amount of BBQ meats, cheeses, beer, picture taking and video making, we say good-bye to Murilo, his friends and family and continue to the town of Morretes, Brazil. Normally a way of getting to Morretes is by a train that continues on its way to Paranagua along Brazil's coastal mountain range, but today we drive in Michel's car. When we reach Morretes it is late, so we stay in a Bed and Breakfast named Pousada Graciosa where the owners (Curt and Mirian) also (surprise!) brew their own very good beer and are very generous in allowing us to sample it.


Late the next morning ( is really afternoon) we head back to Curitiba to enjoy a visit to BodeBrown, a school for home brewing in Brazil. The owner, Samuel Cavalcanti, has kept the school open a little later that night in honor of us arriving, and he and his staff show us the entire operation, from the classroom to the mail order offices and stock rooms to the micro-brewery where Samuel and his staff make their award-winning beers.


Samuel is very serious about his beers (as are many of these “hobbyist” beer makers), and has been trained in various schools including the prestigious Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago. As in Free Software, where programmers are often thought of as “amateur”, the “amateur” label is only because Samuel does not make his living from the school....for him it is a labor of love and a calling.


But what love! Samuel recently joined forces with a micro-biologist to investigate and create new strains of yeast, and they showed us their microscope and over ninety strains of yeast that they are cultivating.


Samuel (of course) also allowed us to sample some of his beers, including his “Hop Weiss”, Gold-medal winning “Wee Heavy” and his Imperial IPA called “Perigosa”, which is Portuguese for the word “dangerous”. When complaints came from his customers due to the small bottles that he put “Perigosa” in (due to the high alcohol content), Samuel produced a magnum champagne sized bottle to also package the beer.


Just as in Free Software, beer brewers like to get together in conferences and that is where I first met Samuel last June....when Michel was working away on the Brazilian Homebrewer's festival in Florianopolis.


Just as in Free Software, beer brewers have heros, like Greg Noonan of the Vermont Brew Pub. Samuel was very pleased to have won an award named after Greg.


And just as Free Software people want to spread the word of Software Freedom, Samuel and his friends want to spread the word of good beer, which is why we are inviting both Samuel and Murilo to participate in Open Beach this year (December 2nd, 3rd and 4th) to have a mini-track about creating good home-brew beer and many beer tastings.


Carpe Beerum!

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