Introducing STORMBREW, an NSA-Inspired Beer for the Masses

By EFF on at

By Nate Cardozo, Electronic Frontier Foundation

When the National Security Agency says they need three hops, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. They mean that they're sweeping up hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans' phone records in order to create detailed social graphs.

When my colleague, EFF's Deputy General Counsel Kurt Opsahl says we need three hops, my mouth waters. Kurt means we need bittering, aroma, and dry hops.

I've been brewing for six years, since just before I started at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I began the way most home brewers do—with a kit to make simple extract beers. But, like any good hobbyist, I quickly started upgrading my rig.

Nowadays, I'm brewing all-grain beers on a three-tier, gravity-fed, home-built plywood tower, lagering in a temperature-controlled chamber, ageing in oak, bottling, kegging, and generally spending way too much time on what began as a simple hobby. But I'd never brewed with my coworkers at EFF.

Introducing STORMBREW, an NSA-Inspired Beer for the Masses

EFF's first brew day was a glorious spring day last year. We'd gotten together in the third floor conference room the week before to design the recipe. We knew our program was going to need three hops, in "honour" of the NSA's unconstitutional dragnet. And we knew we'd need a codename. We thought about OAKSTAR, but decided we weren't going to oak our beer, since hoppy beers don't oak well. We considered DARKTHUNDER, but to me, thunder implies a high gravity beer, and again for the three-hops to shine through, we'd need a middle bodied beer.

I don't remember who suggested STORMBREW—probably Kurt—but it was perfect. STORMBREW is a codename for something, we're not exactly sure what; it's either an "upstream" program name, or a code for one of the NSA's corporate partners (AT&T is BLARNEY, for instance). We decided on a Black IPA, a decidedly stormy brew, and our three all-American hops were to be Centennial (for bittering), Cascade (for aroma), and Willamette (for aroma, and dry hopping).

Introducing STORMBREW, an NSA-Inspired Beer for the Masses

The beer took longer than originally planned, due in part to a move to a new house for me, and a busy litigation schedule for all of us, but we finally tapped our three-hop STORMBREW a couple of weeks ago in EFF's kitchen. And in the spirit of EFF, we're naturally releasing the full recipe under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution (CC BY) license, so you can brew your own. We can't promise that it'll turn out perfectly, but we can promise it won't use its three hops track you, your friends, and everyone they know.

Photos via EFF


Storm Brew Recipe