The marriage of craft beer and AI is finally here, just when you thought a news story couldn’t get any more ‘millennial’. Researcher and electrical engineer Janelle Shane has put her desirable skill set to good use, creating a neural network with the capacity to christen various types of craft beer.
The AI machine learns from a dataset encompassing 90 types of beer (not brands – we’re talking ‘euro dark lagers’ to ‘English mild ales’ and everything in between), all selected from Beer Advocate, a website branding itself as a “global, grassroots network, powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.”
This isn’t Shane’s first venture into the world of neural network naming machines. She’s used AI to name a host of entities; amongst the most memorable are paint colors, metal bands, and guinea pigs (Hanger Dan, anyone!?)
In her blog, Shane explains that different categories of beer actually have their own naming conventions. So you should, in theory, be able to tell your wheat beer from your amber ale from your stout just according to the name. Once the 90 types of beer had been grouped into broader, more manageable categories, Shane set the neural network to work on each of these, and the names that emerged were actually very viable.
For IPAs, the neural network conjured names such as ‘Yampy’, ‘Earth Pump’, ‘Cockamarin Hard IPA’, and ‘Bigly Bomb Session IPA’. Strong Pale Ales were similarly weird and wonderful: ‘The Great Rebelgion’, Sip’s The Stunks Belgian Tripel’, and ‘Gunde of Traz’. The Amber Ales were graced with titles like ‘Fire Pipe’ and ‘The Hunty’. As for the stouts, ‘Sir Coffee’ and ‘Barrel Aged Chocolate Milksmoke’ certainly spoke to me.
Some were perhaps a little too meandering – or downright bizarre – to be craft beer names. Fancy ordering a ‘Thrennt Rem Wine Barrel Aged Monkay Tripel’ at your local. Or perhaps you’re more of an ‘Oarahe Momnila Day Revenge Bass Cornationn Yerve Of Aterid Ale’ kinda bloke. My personal favourite is ‘Spulgican’s Chocolate Coconut Pamper’ – you know, for that ‘Champneys meets Harry Potter’ kind of vibe all the kids are lusting after.
If you’ve ever wanted a working definition of irony, this is it: bots – and machine making – have been playing an increasingly prevalent role in the world of craft. And that’s not just confined to craft beer, either, although UK brewery IntelligentX actually uses machine learning to cultivate the taste of its beer. In the past few years, bots have cropped up in the art world, such as back in 2016 when arts organisation Abandon Normal Devices (AND) instigated a bot takeover of Somerset House, featuring spectacles such as a ‘Big Data Pawn Shop’, a gift shop plugging auto-generated garments emblazoned with leaked NSA documents. Artist Sam Lavigne also does some interesting, more politicized work with bots – for example, manipulating bots to decipher the keywords in big US news debates, and editing the videos so the keywords are repeatedly uttered.
Then again, part of the reason bots are so popular is their playful appeal, à la Janelle Shane’s latest endeavor. If, like me, this is right up your street, you can sign up here and Shane will email you a PDF of 100 more beer names, including, she mentions proudly, ‘the inevitable beer named Fart’.