Technology is progressing faster and faster, and computers have become a part of nearly every aspect of everyday life, but can a computer make a better beer?
Computers have quickly become an integral part of everything we do. In our cars they constantly make adjustments to the engine, warn us when we stray into the other lane, automatically stop the car to avoid a collision, and can even drive us to our destination. In our homes they can respond to voice commands, play our favorite music, and warn us about traffic conditions when we’re getting ready to go to work.
Computers have been used for years in manufacturing for years to assemble, monitor and adjust temperatures and power usage, perform quality control, and identify and correct errors.
In brewing, computers can control nearly the entire process from milling and mashing, to lautering and fermenting, and at any step of the way, the computer could make adjustments- all according to the brewers recipe.
London based brewery IntelligentX, claimed to be the first brewer to use artificial intelligence to brew a beer. After a customer had tried an IntelligentX beer, they would then log into Facebook Messenger and give their opinions on the beer. However, instead of communicating directly to the brewery, the person providing the feedback would actually be talking to an artificial intelligence (AI) system called ABI, which would take that information, enter it into an algorithm, and then create a new recipe.
Recently Champion Brewing, in Charlottesville Virginia teamed up with a machine learning company called Metis Machine to brew what they hope will be the perfect IPA. According to Hunter Smith, the owner of Champion Brewing Co, by providing the AI developed by Metis Machine with the parameters that IPAs are judged by at the Great American Beer Festival, the metrics from the nationally 10-best-selling IPAs, and the 10 worst selling IPAs at a local retailer, the AI would come up with the recipe for the ideal IPA. The result was the ML IPA.
Carlsburg, one of the most recognized beverage brands in the world, is taking things to the next level with what they are calling their Beer Fingerprinting Project. Carlsberg will be collaborating with Microsoft, Aarhus University, and The Technical University of Denmark to develop an AI capable of sensing and measuring flavors and aromas in beer. The idea is that an AI with the ability to taste and smell beer will greatly enhance the process of developing new beers and also improve quality control.
According to Jochen Förster, the Director and Professor of Yeast Fermentation at Carlsberg Research Laboratory, there is currently no rapid technology that can differentiate the complex textures of flavors, but he believes the development of this technology is critical to developing beer of the highest possible quality with the added benefit of reducing the time and cost in developing new beers.
But what does this all mean? Could technology, by removing the human element in the brewing process, ultimately destroy the art and the craft of beer making? Will automation and computer analysis reduce creativity and brewing innovation ?
Personally, I don’t think so. Making it easier to get the results you want or reducing human error doesn’t impede creativity. I believe we are still a long ways away from an AI saying, “Wait! What if I add (this strange ingredient) during primary fermentation?” It still takes a human being’s imagination to create something new, and a human’s drive for something new and different.
Technology is amazing, but it’s really only as good as the people who use it.