Steal Our Beer: The Art of Recipe Hacking

Do you want to steal our beer? No need for subterfuge, we publish all our recipes online. We believe that open recipes will only inspire growth and collaboration in the brewing community.

Though the sharing of recipes is hardly a new thing, much of the modern collaboration process was shaped by the Open Source Software movement, particularly the GNU Project. The GNU manifesto articulates how all users will benefits from sharing programming source code, some examples of this are:

  • Clearing time taken to duplicate tasks; use energy to improving code instead of reinventing the wheel.
  • Bottlenecks on resources: a single person or company can no longer control changes to code
  • Outsourcing system improvements: anyone can be invited to improve and modify source code to benefit of the community or project

Replace the word ‘code’ with ‘food’, and you can see that it has tremendous parallels in the food and drink industry. Interestingly enough, the GNU philosophy uses beer as an example in the definition of what free software is:

“Free software” means software that respects users’ freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. We sometimes call it “libre software,” borrowing the French or Spanish word for “free” as in freedom, to show we do not mean the software is gratis.

How has the GNU licensed been implied to the Food and Beverage Industry?  In 2001, OpenCola released their open source version of the Coca Cola recipe under the GNU license. Many others have since released other open source recipes from gummy bears, medicine and entire food systems. Open Source Beer first made a splash in 2004 by university students at Copenhagen, and their efforts have been continued to this day at

Going beyond the actual GNU license, just do a simple search on recipe clones, and you’ll find 1000’s of recipes from wine, junk food, specialised variations of popular food brands that are gluten free, vegan or made without artificial ingredients. Beersmith, a popular beer recipe sharing site, lists over 4000 submitted recipes as ‘clones’.

But what do corporations do about recipe hacking?

Shhh, Trade Secrets…

Coca Cola, KFC, Krispy Creme, Hersey’s, Heinz 57 – all big name food corporations that are seriously hush-hush on their secret recipes. Turns out, these trade secrets are little more than clever marketing strategy.

What’s important to differentiate here is that Trade Secrets and Recipes are not the same. Recipes are notoriously hard to patent; patents must be “novel” and “non-obvious”. That means that recipe most not have existed before or an obvious improvement or alteration of a previous invention. Advice From the US Patent and Trademark Office states the following:

Consider that people have been mixing together ingredients to produce different food products since the dawn of humanity-in fact, some of the earliest known examples of written language are food recipes. These days, most “new” recipes are merely combinations of known ingredients in varying amounts, separate discoveries of preexisting recipes, or variations on known recipes. Even if a previous version of a recipe cannot be found, a “new” recipe could still be considered obvious.

For instance, Cola Cola does not have a patent on its recipe. However, it does have trade secrets. A trade secret is a type of intellectual property which protects confidential business information that give the company a competitive edge.  With trade secrets, inventors do not disclose their formulas, practices or processes; employees and contractors have to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement to prevent sharing of the recipe. Because of the classified nature of the trade secret, the company can use it as a marketing ploy. In short, if you worked for the company with a trade secret and released a similar product, or shared their ‘secret herbs and spices’ with someone else, the corporate overlords will get you.

However, if you are not associated with the company, and independently reversed engineered the recipe, chances are it would be very difficult to prosecute.

On the other hand, while ‘hackers’ may look to recipes to emulate a products taste, there might be a more sinister reason that some corporations hide their ‘herbs and spices’ . In 2004, a study was performed on consumer goods and found more than 50% of products tested had unlisted toxic chemicals. Some hid behind seemingly innocuous terms such as ‘natural’ or even ‘inert’.

A Brief Aside: The Curious Case of Gloria Pitzer

Pitzers Original KFC recipe (source: Mother Jones)

Twinkies, Oreo Cookies, Kentucky Fried Chicken – these corporate recipes were all hacked well before the dawn of the internet and even the open source revolution!  During the 1970’s, homemaker and columnist Gloria Pitzer was known as the Recipe Detective. According to her book, she was tired about writing ‘monotonous meatloaf’ but her editors warned her not to upset their advertisers. In a bold move, she decided to pursue her own recipe publishing career that broke down recipes for famous foods in the USA. Her own husband quit his executive role so he could help with her cook books, of which more than 26 have been published.

She has her own thoughts on trade secrets:

It isn’t, of course, that I don’t think such secrets exist. I’m sure they do. I just don’t think they have all that much influence on anyone’s decision to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken. This may be why, when Pitzer and Colonel Sanders chatted together once on a radio program, he genially hinted that she look around the grocery store for a packaged mix that might contain eleven secret herbs and spices. Pitzer diligently did just that-to discover that the secret behind that finger lickin’ flavor was Good Seasons brand Italian salad dressing mix.

Though she is now retired, she’s left an impressive legacy for modern food hackers!

Our Brewer talks

In this section Carlos discusses his own experiences with the food industry, hacking recipes and why he is fine with posting Outlier Cartel recipes online:

You’ve worked over 15 years in the Food and Beverage industry, have you ever seen any controversy around recipes, or the distribution of recipes?

There’s been some interesting stories around the make up of wines in NZ, where a producer was caught doctoring their entries for an award. Rather than recipes, this would involve the blending or make up from different vineyards of a wine. In this case the whole story didn’t kill the brand, but it did affect sales for a little bit. The winemaker responsible for this actually sold his brand Wither Hills to Lion Nathan for a good amount of money, and despite having a mark on his reputation is now successfully leading with The Ned/Marisco vineyards. Coincidentally, I ended up making his bulk Sauvignon Blanc for The Ned brand during my last vintage with Pernod Ricard. There’s some saucy stories involving wine scandals in NZ, but many more worldwide – like this particular story involving fraudulent wine made by Chateau Giscours. Under new ownership this winemaker completely turned around and started making world-class wines. I was fortunate enough to start my winemaking career with a job at this Chateau straight out of uni.

You get a secret delivery of the best beer you ever had in your life – but they took the labels off. How would you figure out how to brew it?

You would taste the beers first. Carefully, repeatedly focusing your attention on how the distinct characters develop and where they might come from. Which ingredients may be underlying these aromas, flavors, textures. Are they coming from the malt? The hops or the yeast? What’s the water used like? Are there any adjuncts involved, any special fermentation or processing techniques? Often it seems like detective work, but understanding different products and how to get there has helped me bring life to some of our more complex and challenging concoctions, such as our Wunderkammer.

What are some of the tools of the trade for reverse engineering a recipe?

Generally tasting and trying to reconstruct the components of a beverage with your knowledge is a good start. If you want to understand any given product further, HPLC [High Performance Liquid Chromatography] will reveal what its make up is, and gas chromatography will reveal compounds imperceptible to your senses.

Are there any styles more difficult than others to reverse engineer?

If talking about beers, I guess experimental styles, and historic styles you might not have much experience with. The most important tool here is imbibing many litres of the product in question 😉

Are there any ingredients you wouldn’t work with? If not, how would you substitute them?

Generally, rather than putting a certain ingredient into a beer, what you want to do is recreate a certain impression of flavors, aromas or textures in a beer. This doesn’t always involve adding the ingredient as such, but something that will give you the impression of that ingredient. You can’t add bacon to a beer, not only because it would make the beer non-vegan, but also the oils from the bacon would absolutely kill the head/foam of the beer. Thus, adding smoked malts or a tincture made to capture the flavor would give you the impression of bacon without having to add bacon!

You’ve put your recipes online, what if Carlsberg or another industrial brewer takes the recipe to take a new beer to the market? Would it make any difference if another small brewery in New Zealand did the same?

Not at all. I don’t think that recipes represent anything really. Bigger companies like to add a bit of mystery around what they do, but only because there isn’t much to it really! They give customers a false idea that only they are capable of doing something. This is false, and sharing knowledge is one way to decentralizing know how but also empowers everyone to make things. On the other hand, the essence and soul of what and who we are, and what we will come up with next, is impossible to share in a recipe.



About Carlos: With a background in food science and 15 years of international winemaking, Carlos brings knowledge and passion for all things related to flavor, food and booze. Carlos thinks that by relying on the knowledge of manufacturers for their food and beverage, people’s choices around what they eat and drink are a political act. He co-founded Outlier Cartel 2 years ago, and is now making beverages for uncommon thirsts. Drink indie!


Bakin’ with the Bear: Poke the Bear Brownies

Back in the kitchen! This time to make bear brownies with an epic amount of flavour and calories. Here’s a blow-by-blow guide. I’ve borrowed the recipe idea from the site TheSpruce and have taken liberty with a few unrighteous aberrations. Just so you know, I have no idea what I’m doing!

The ingredient list:

  • Coconut Oil
  • 1 Cup of multi-purpose flour
  • 3/4 Cup o’ Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 100 grams of butter
  • 500 grams of dark chocolate
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup of Molasses Sugar
  • 2 cans Poke the Bear
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • 1 large cooking pot
  • 1 baking pan
  • An eclectic beater
  • A radio station or random playlist
  • A significant other.

Let’s get started!

Clean your kitchen. Why? Because your kitchen will be a blank canvass for the unholy, chaotic mess we will make.

Preheat the oven to 190 C (~375 F) get a baking pan and grease it with coconut oil.

Create the dry ingredient mixture: In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder and salt like the madmen (or women) you are. It’s finished when you are thoroughly tired or when its evenly mixed (whichever comes first)

Chocolate Mix: Get that large cooking pot, place it on the burner on medium-low heat. Break off 500 grams of  dark chocolate. Break it into small chunks. Chuck 100 grams of butter in the pot. Stir slowly. Be sure to inhale the intoxicating chocolate fumes from time to time.

Egg Mix: Grab that other mixing bowl, crack open 5 eggs, chuck the eggs in (shells optional). Chuck in the molasses sugar. Put in the egg beater, put it on high until its big and fluffy.

Once your chocolate mix is all nice and melty, give it a good stir and add the egg mix. Stir until its nicely integrated:

Now add the dry mix. Get that egg beater, and put in on turbo. If your kitchen doesn’t remind you of this scene from Trainspotting, you are not doing it right. At this point, your significant other may be glaring at you for your artwork. That’s perfectly normal, no need to panic.

Finally the best part. Add one cup of o’ Pokébear (that’s what we call it at the Cartel). Pour about 150mls  into a glass. Smell that wonderful aroma, and take a big sip. Now your ready mate! Take your can and slowly pour the rest of the can in. Stir until it is fully blended in.

Once its blended in, pour it into your baking tray and put it into the oven for 27 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let rest for 10-15 minutes, unless you have a penchant for scalding your mouth with hot, chocolatey goodness. Enjoy with gusto, and pour that can of Poke the Bear to slake your thirst, you deserve it!





Do all the good you can…


Recently on a walk to Auckland’s K’ road, and I came across a church billboard which was one of the founding principles of Outlier Cartel:

Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as you ever can.

This quote was, and still is driving force behind what we do. Passing by that sign, it made me think deeper if we are living up to those ideals:

By all the means you can.

This is something we are still working on. Most people are surprised that all 3 of us work part time at Outlier Cartel. The reason is simple – we want to be sustainable. Perhaps its because all of us have been around the block and we’ve seen a lot of businesses burn out fast or have to compromise for the wrong reasons. Whilst there are a number of options to for us to expand, going slowly and thoughtfully is really giving us the opportunity to maximise those outlier opportunities.

In all the places you can.

We are a kiwi business with an international soul. We don’t isolate ourselves to one part of the world, and it allows us to do good in all the places we can.

At all times you can.

Every Outlier Cartel beverage that is drunk is a moment in time in someone’s life. We take that seriously. We make sure that our quality is the best it can be, and make amends if it is not. If we are going to be a part of that moment, then we better damn well make sure we live up to our part of it.

To all the people you can

We are all ‘citizens of the world’ defined by our experiences here in New Zealand. Everyone, regardless of nation, creed or sexual preference has the right to quality of life; and for us, it means that everyone deserves the best we have to offer.

As long as you ever can.

Our vision is to sustain ‘goodness’ as long as we can. In fact one of the first exercises we did as a business is come up with a 1000 year business plan. Our responsibility is to make this work, do some good and hopefully leave a legacy of goodness for others to follow.

Cookin’ with Cargo Cult: Fried Apple Entrails Recipe

Obligatory Warning: This is the first experimental recipe I’ve used from our beer. I figured if its good enough to drink, its good enough to cook with. Unlike most warnings, do try this at home, as  you may be ostracized for doing this recipe in public. Also there is some foul and inappropriate language used here.  Read at your own risk.

See this unholy mess? You will be cooking this today.


Fried Apple Entrails

A little about this recipe… We bought a one of the rotational apple peely devices, the kind that looks like a rotissary. Well, my wife threatened to chuck it out because we never use, so I decided to make repulsive apple fritters. The working title was ‘The Applecopaliptz on the Fritz’ but in the end Fried Apple Entrails was more aptly suited name.

Prerequisite: An rotating apple peeling device. Remember that gift that Auntie Maggie so thoughtfully gave you after her trip to the USA 11 years ago? You know that one that you used one once to make your Auntie happy? Dig that bad boy out from storage, give a good sterilisation because we are going to put it to use:

Here’s that rotissary apple peeler. It will skin and core your apples like a champ!

Here’s whatcha need for this recipe:

  • Flour:  2 Cups / 250 grams
  • 2 Cans of Cargo Cult
  • 3 Eggs (separate yolk from white stuff)
  • Pinch o’ salt
  • 4 NZ Rose Apples
  • 250 Grams of Unsalted butter (keep more at hand if needed)
  • 2.5 tablespoons of brown/raw sugar
  • 1 table spoon of powder sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 deep frying pan
  • 1 Apple peeler thinga-ma-jig
  • Background music of choice. I suggest 80’s hairspray metal, you’ll burn off more calories while singing in a high pitched voice.

Step 1: Crank up the music. If you aren’t singing and looking absolutely ridiculous, you are not doing this right.

Step 2: Mix flour, 1 cup of Cargo Cult (drink the rest to loosen the vocal cords), egg yolks, and a pinch of salt together. Once nicely blend, let rest for 15 minutes.

Step 3: Whisk the egg whites until they white and frothy. I suggest using a blending device.

Step 4: After 15 minutes, dump the white fluffy egg whites into the rest of the batter.

Step 5: Time to peel those apples. Carve up and core 4 apples. Keep the curled skins; that’s an integral part of this this recipe, and from this point forward shall be dubbed ‘the entrails’.  The apples will all be carved in to curled slices.  Cut the apples into 3 slices (there should be about 3 ‘rings’ per slice). Keep your entrails on a separate plate.

A work in progress.

Step 6: Carve 250 grams from your unsalted butter. Chuck that into a deep frying pan, and crank up the heat until its melted.

Step 7: Dunk those apple slices in the beer battered goodness. Chuck them in that frying pan and listen to the wholesome sizzle of apple passing into the next life. Once one side has died a death of golden brown, flip it over and kill the other side too. Once finished, place it on some paper towels to absorb some of that rich buttery goodness. Repeat until all slices are finished. Place in oven at low temp to keep warm.

Step 8. Place the entrails in the beer batter, yeah that’s the ticket! Coat those bad boys! Place them in the frying pan and cook those entrails until they reach the pinnacle of golden brown. Remember these are fucking entrails, so don’t give two shits about messy.  Just go ahead and splatter that shit around. If your significant other looks at you oddly, just shoot them a cross look and tell him/her that you are cooking the guts of your mortal enemy. They’ll get the picture. Blot the guts out on a paper towel.

Go ahead. Get messy. This is your moment to shine.

Step 9: Now its time to put all that shit together. Mix 2 and half tables spoons of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon together. Sprinkle this on the deep fried cored apples. After that, place the entrails on top the the fried apples. You might have the rip apart the intestines a bit for even distribution

Step 10: Hey man, didn’t you remember this recipe called for 2 Cargo Cults? Well, crack that other ‘Cult open and drink it with your slain quarry. Why? – because you are a legend mate!

Final result. Remember the gift of good looks does not bestow itself on the deep fried. Background corpse wrapped in grey blanket optional.





Kölsch – the gateway to new beer styles

Not so long ago, I was a self professed lager lout. I tried those trendy IPA’s that people were raving about – but the ones I tried were far too bitter and unbalanced. Hey drinking beer was supposed to be a pleasurable experience, so if I couldn’t find anything I could enjoy, I’ll stick to the tried and true lager.

The Kölsch changed all that for me and opened me up to a world of great beer! What exactly is a Kölsch (anglicised koelsch or kolsch) anyway?

Technically its a beer that is warm fermented at around 13 to 21 °C (55 to 70 °F), then conditioned by lagering at cold temperatures. Less technically, its an ale made like a lager.

A bit about Kölsch History:

Der Kranz – Kölsch serving tray.

Grab hold of your umlauts and lets learn a bit more about this style. The Kölsch is named for the German city Köln (anglicised Cologne). Though it had been around since the late 1800’s, it was first recorded to be brewed at the  Sünner brewery in 1906. It was a true oddball style as more than 90% of breweries in Germany at the turn of the century made lagers.

Köbes has also come to mean a ‘headstrong man’ in local vernacular.

If you know your beer history – you’ll know about the German Beer Purity Law which originated in Bavaria in 1516.  Kölners weren’t going to take any that Bavarian guff and at one point even banned the making of lagers in 1603! Because of this, lager brewing came later in Köln than other German cities. Interestingly enough, a true Kölsch does adhere to the Reinheitsgebot, but uses an ale yeast instead of a lager yeast.

In an effort to make Kölsch great again, Köln gave the Kölsch it’s own Protected Geographical Indication. Much like the way Champagne can only come from the Champagne region, Kölsch can only be brewed in the Köln region . In addition to the regional requirements, it is also needed to be top fermented, light coloured, highly attenuated, hoppy and meet the standards of the Kölsch Konvention which operates under the Reinheitsgebot.

It even has a peculiar way of being served: officially it should be served in a 7oz (200ml) Stange, a straight glass. These glasses are served by Köbes (waiters) inside a Kranz, a cylindrical serving tray. And before you think Stange, Köbes and Kranz are just regular ol’ Germans words, they are infused a bit with local humour. Stange literally means stick, Kranz means crown (or wreath), Köbes, is a derivative of the name Jakob – I guess all the waiters have the same name!

The Kölsch / Altbier Rangewars

Just around the corner from Köln, is Düsseldorf. They have their specialty beer called Altbier. Altbier is another German beer style that is similar to Kölsch in that it uses ale yeast and is then lagered. But Altbier is darker and is typically more bitter than the Kölsch. Its been said that in the town of Langenfeld, there is actually a demarcation line between Köln and Düsseldorf to separate Kölsch and Altbier areas! Specifically on the main street where Kölner Street changes to Düsseldorfer Street and vice versa. Legend has it, that Landlords would only dispense Alt on the Düsseldorf side, and Kölsch on the Köln side.

This rivalry even extends to German memes depending on which area you’re from. See for yourself…

This is how Kölsch is brewed / This is how Alt is brewed

Enough chatter, what does it taste like? 

A traditional Kölsch is classified a Pale Bitter European Beer. Its colour is light gold and should be very clear.  It will have medium to low head, have aromas of soft fruit with light-to-medium body and solid carbonation. Overall it should be crisp and refreshing.

Does Outlier Cartel make a Kölsch?

“Yeah… nah”. Our Cargo Cult is fundamentally a Kölsch!  We were inspired by those thirst quenching crispness of rice lagers and the nuanced ale flavours of a Kölsch. Not ones to follow convention, why not make a beer that is the best of both worlds?  So while we could never enter Cargo Cult as a true to style Kölsch (it’s not from Köln and contains rice) it’s still damn tasty!

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Gypsy Brewing – the 411

What exactly is Gypsy Brewing? What is it not?

Gypsy brewing refers to the ability of brewing in different places. This means finding partner breweries willing to get your beers made and packaged at their facility, letting you set up shop where it makes sense to you for a number of different reasons. These reasons can include availability of unique ingredients, great processes at the partner brewery, water characteristics, closeness to market or a multitude of others!  Gypsy Brewers can be varied, and at multiple locations at the same time. Albeit not the case for Outlier Cartel, there are cases where gypsy brewing means an actual brewery wandering to find locations that meet particular requirements or have certain characteristics that make it unique for the process of the brewery.

What are some of the differences in brewing from a fixed facility and brewing as a journeyman? Are there any surprises?

Having your own equipment has the enormous advantage of being able to understand and fine tune your processes to great detail. This will allow you to produce great quality beer consistently and at a better margin since you aren’t paying anyone else to make his for you. When you are a brewing journeyman you need an amount of trust in your production brewery that isn’t easy to reach. You may be able to find a partner brewery that isn’t compatible with the processes your particular brewing style/process requires. This can result in products that aren’t up to the standards you’re looking for or a product that differs from the recipe you originally designed. This only means that recipe design and executing process breweries aren’t always in unison and doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of the beers at a particular brewery per se. You may find that a brewery produces great quality beers under other labels, but they can’t translate your recipes accurately into the desired beers.

Besides being a good brewer, what else does it take to be good at Gypsy brewing?

More than being a good brewer, you need to have a good working knowledge of science, and an ability to translate product concepts to a recipe design that makes sense. It requires good process managing, understanding the logistics behind both product development and production processing. You’ll need to liaise with suppliers, source ingredients, some of which may be rare or hard to find. In addition you need to talk to local manufacturers to understand how to make things wherever you are at the moment, build relationships based on mutual trust, so you get the best and more importantly when you require it. You’ll need to be able to work across internal and external stakeholders in a timely manner and sometimes under pressure. A good brewer will be able to correctly interpret the recipe design into a physical product – so whilst not being essential to being good at gypsy brewing, the production brewer will very much appreciate if you speak their language.

What are the most memorable places you’ve brewed at? 

Definitely brewing in Tahsis, BC as well as putting down a batch in Pearl River, NY. Being exposed to unique ingredients such as foraged mushrooms in BC as well as NY state grown malt. The unique locations and challenges/opportunities it brings with it make it a very enjoyable thing to do. Each place is unique, and this can be repeated in as many locations as you can find.

Gypsy brewers tend to do alot of collaborations. Why is this and what are our some of your favourite collaborations?

See above. The ability to find locations and build partnerships often come with creating lasting relations. This uniquely human aspect of gypsy brewing will naturally result in collaborations, and it would be odd not to do this since you are partners already.

Who are the most successful Gypsy brewers in the world? Locally who else is doing this in New Zealand and Asia Pacific.

There’s notable early trendsetters like Evil Twin Brewing and Mikkeller of Copenhagen; and Stillwater Artisanal of Baltimore who built themselves into international brands through sales in bars, supermarkets and beer stores. They have all have been very successful and have now moved to their own facilities, some after up to 10 years of gypsy brewing. In NZ and Asia Pacific, there’s some examples like Behemoth and Yeastie Boys, as well the now defunct Cult Brewing.

What are the drawbacks of being a gypsy brewer?

I can name a few drawbacks from not owning your own stainless steel such as getting brewing dates bumped, not getting your carefully designed recipes translated into product correctly, getting misunderstood or poorly understood by the market – ‘wow, the quality and consistency of your beers is amazing, even though you’re a gypsy brewer’, and many others.

From a business perspective, what are the main advantages of being a gypsy brewer?

Here’s where the adaptability and flexibility of gypsy brewing plays in your favor: you can be at the forefront of trends by answering swiftly to even small changes since your loyal following expects precisely that from you, you don’t have a taproom that expects you to have lines with the same beers all the time, you can set up shop where you think you can sell your stuff rather than having to come up with strategies to sell stuff where everyone already knows you.

Is Gypsy brewing for everyone: why or why not? Will we see more gypsy brewers in the future?

We may possibly see more Gypsy Brewers in the future. Like the article mentioned above, there’s big responsibility that comes with being a gypsy brewer, and I don’t think most brewers as well as consumers actually appreciate that. You can quickly make a bad name for yourself as a brewer, because customers will expect transparency from you amongst other things. We make a point of always stating where we’ve made our beer, and are proud of our partnerships rather than trying to hide the fact we don’t own stainless steel. People will end up knowing your story, and if you’re not transparent from the get-go and good at what you do, things will eventually become hard for you.