December 11, 2004

Linux and beer: Survey results and commentary

Author: Joe Barr

Linux and beer just seem to go together. But is beer really the most popular beverage of choice for the Linux and the free software/open source communities? And if it is, exactly which brand of beer is regarded as the creme de la creme? With these deep-reaching questions burning in our minds, the NewsForge editorial staff launched an extensive study on the matter. Today we are happy to share the results of our study. Our conclusions are based on direct input from noted Linux kernel hackers like Linus Tovalds, Alan Cox, and Andrew Morton, with additonal input provided by Linux advocates, journalists, CEOs of Linux distributions, Richard Stallman, and a healthy sampling of Linux users from the Austin LUG's mailing list.

We received 48 responses to our direct-mail survey. Of those, 42 replied with at least one brand of beer as their favorite, some had multiple choices, while 7 others -- a whopping 15 percent of the total -- said they didn't drink beer.

Of those who didn't specify a beer, 2 said they preferred soft drinks, 2 said they preferred wine, 2 didn't name a preference, and 1 preferred hard liquor.

In tallying our results, we awarded each beer named one vote, even when a single individual named several. For that reason, there were more votes tallied than respondents. As you may know, this is not really that uncommon in the United States, but we wanted to explain the methodology prior to receiving requests for recounts.

Based on these results, I think we can safely say that, yes, beer is the favorite beverage of the Linux crowd, and move on to our second question. Which beer is most popular? Here are the results.

It's no surprise to find Guinness the most popular, with 6 votes. After that, however, it's every beer for itself. Corona and Shiner Bock were the only other brands of beers to get more than a single vote, with each of them receiving two. IPAs (India Pale Ales) also got two votes.

Who knew there were so many choices? The good news is that the kernel is not nearly as likely to fork as the community's preferences in beer.

Finally, we get to the raw data. Here are the responses -- arranged in alphabetical order -- we received to our query asking, "What is your favorite beer?"

Jon Mark Allen,
Linux community member
Representing the minority: I don't drink beer.
Jeremey Allison,
Samba Project
I'm sorry, I don't drink beer - I drink Diet Coke :-).
Eric Allman,
Author of Sendmail
Ah, well, I realize that beer is probably the beverage of choice for
hackers, but I'm afraid I'm a wine kind of guy.
Chris Casey,
Linux community member
Now this is a survey I can get behind. I used to make beer, some of the best
and some of the worst beer I've ever had. The absolute best beer I've had was
at the York Brewery in England. For at-home drinking, I'll buy just about
anything from Bud Light to Guiness Draught. I supposed my main preferences
lie with good, hoppy IPAs. If you're looking for a brand name, don't bother.
There are so many out there that I try to taste all of them at least once,
and the concept of 'favorite' does not apply (except to whatever I'm drinking
at the time). You are on a noble quest, sir.
Michael H. Collins,
Linux community member
Spaten Optimator.
Alan Cox,
Linux kernel hacker
Beer is sort of mixed: Asahi, Kingfisher, lots of German and Austrian Weissbeers (whatever
they have locally not bottled) and VB (but only in .au it's horrible over here).
My real favourite is harder to find and cider (UK cider, i.e. alcoholic) and that
is Old Rosie.
Cliff Cyphers,
Linux community member
Schneider & Sohn Aventinus (Germany)
Leffe Blonde Abbey (Netherlands)
McEwan's Scothch Ale (England)

Plus many more ales that can't think of right now.

Art Daddona,
Linux community member
most IPAs.
Mike Delany,
Linux community member
Shiner Bock. Still gives me a headache after drinking it for 20
years. I think that Guinness would be number two.
Linux community member
Cobra by A-Bush. It is a malt liquor with 5.9% alcohol.
Gaël Duval,
Co-founder, Mandrakesoft
Well... Guinness is a good choice isn't it?
Nat Friedman,
Co-founder, Ximian, which is now part of Novell
I prefer wine.
Author of Nmap
I rarely drink beer, but when I do, I am fond of a German brew known
as Hacker-Pschorr Dunkle Weisse, which I find in a small market in
Cupertino, CA.
Jeff Gerhardt,
Co-founder, The Linux Show
Is there any real question? Guinness.
Kevin E. Ivey,
Linux community member
Guinness Stout (what else?)
Dave Lapham,
Linux community member
My two favorite kinds of beer are: 1) Free 2) Cold
Jem Matzan,
Editor-in-chief, the Jem Report
Larry McVoy,
CEO, BitKeeper, Inc.
My drink of choice is wine but if it is a hot day or I've been out working
in the yard a Negra Modelo tastes great.
Robin Miller,
Editor-in-chief, OSTG
I prefer hard liquor.
Andrew Morton,
Linux kernel hacker at OSDL
Reschs Pilsener. That's a mass-produced Australian lager.
Bob Pendleton,
Linux community member
Very hard question. I really like many beers. Sam Adams Cherry Wheat is
what I seem to buy the most of. Follow by Guinness Stout, though I
prefer to buy that on tap rather than in bottles. But I'm not inclined
to turn down a Shiner Bock, or a nut brown ale, pretty much any German
Bruce Perens,
Linux and open source advocate
Omegang. Check out their Web page.
Eric S. Raymond,
Open source advocate
Ginger beer. Ideally, the dark Jamaican style. With lime in it.
Michael Robertson,
CEO, Linspire, Inc.
Corona or Labatt.
David Rose,
Linux community member
I tend to enjoy variety, but I guess I'd say Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is
what I drink when I can't otherwise make up my mind.
Doc Searls,
Senior Editor, Linux Journal
The darkest beer, generally. Guinness is the standard.
Rebecca Sobol,
Jon and Forrest usually go for something dark. A dark ale
or a stout. On the rare occasions that I have a beer I tend to go for
something lighter, like the raspberry wheat.
Linux community member
I'd hafta say, pint for pint, my fayv is Shiner Bock.
Richard Stallman,
Founder, Free Software Foundation
I do not like beer. It tastes bitter. In the AI Lab hacker community of the '70s, people did not like alcohol in general. We wanted to make our minds sharper, not duller. When
our community was more or less wiped out in the '80s (see "Hackers," by Steve Levy), this and many of its other cultural traits were not adopted by the new hacker community. In this case, the foolish majority's influence triumphed over the wiser minority.
Michael Tiemann,
Vice President, Open Source Affairs, Red Hat Inc.
Boddingtons Bitter.
Linus Torvalds,
Creator of Linux
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols,
Editor of's Linux & Open Source Center
Diet Orange Crush is my drink of choice.
Donn L. Washburn,
Linux community member
I like Michelob. However, for about 20 years I have not
had one due to diabetes
Dave Whitinger,
Founder, LXer Linux News
Löwenbräu. Note that this is different from the Löwenbräu one can buy here in the
Warren Woodford,
Founder, MEPIS Linux
Favorite draft beer: Blackwater Stout from the WV Brewing Company in
Favorite domestic bottled beer: Stoudts Triple.
Favorite imported bottled beer: Chimay Bleue
Linux community member
Pilsner Urquell (beer)

Real Ale Brewing's Pale Moon Rye Ale (made in Blanco)

Zheng-Da Tan,
Linux community member
I prefer wine (riesling) & liquor (Jack Daniels) over beer... but as far as beer goes, my favorite is Corona.

Do you agree with the survey results, or do you have your own favorite beer to champion? Let us know in comments. We might have to expand the scope of our survey.


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