In a beer world in which limited releases reign, the need for brewers to come up with new beer recipes never ceases. Beer drinkers and brewers alike are often chasing what's new and next, with that insatiable hunger making it hard to brew, refine and test recipes before they hit the market.
However, a familiar face in South Australia's beer industry and a leading name in artificial intelligence have been working together with the aim of making the development of new beers more efficient thanks to their new platform, Deep Liquid. Driving the project are Barossa Valley Brewing’s co-founder Denham D’Silva alongside Dr Jaime Sherrah and Dr Simon Lucey from the Australian Institute of Machine Learning – or AIML, one of the world’s top-ranked AI institutes.
According to Denham, by utilising artificial intelligence (AI), Deep Liquid enables brewers to develop new recipes or fine-tune existing ones by turning customer feedback – beer reviews can be accessed via a QR code on labels – into data that feeds into their machine learning network. He told The Crafty Pint he's confident AI can make recipe development efficient and believes small craft breweries will benefit from utilising data to brew. Moreover, he says the beauty of machine learning means that Deep Liquid will only grow and develop over time.
“I am now confident we can leverage AI to make that process much more efficient," he says. "The exciting aspect has the potential to involve our customers in this process.
"Direct feedback from customer reviews will continuously feed into the neural network to build on its knowledge and assist with the recipe development. The more data the better.”
In a media release announcing the latest stage in Deep Liquid's development, he added: "Our relationship with our customers is our biggest advantage over mass brewers.
"Deep Liquid’s platform allows us to literally take on board all customer feedback and integrate it into the recipe development processes. We get real-time market data that allows the brewer to make the best brewing decisions.
“We have wonderful customers that are the lifeblood of our brewery, as much as we try, there is no way to listen to everyone."
Working in collaboration with AIML students, the project began when Barossa Valley launched Australia’s first AI beer, The Rodney IPA, earlier this year, which went on to receive silver medals at both the AIBA and Royal Adelaide Beer & Cider Awards. The first step in the process saw them develop a neural network in which 20 different recipe factors were taken into consideration. Base information from the recipes was considered to make an IPA that Barossa Valley Brewing felt would appeal to their fans by taking into account factors such as IBUs (international bitterness units), ABV, mash temperatures, ferment temperatures, as well as different ingredients.
The neural network then learned from more than 260,000 recipes before generating more 200,000 recipes itself, before whittling those down to just 20. The beer was named after Adelaide-born robotic genius Rodney Brooks, who was the director of MIT’s artificial intelligence laboratory, but is better known for the development of robot vacuum cleaner, the Roomba.
Rodney has given his tick of approval to the Deep Liquid project too, stating in the media release that it fits in with his own love for how AI can make our lives and jobs better.
"What I love about Deep Liquid is how their service doesn’t seek to replace but serves humans. With a critical worker shortage, it has never been more vital we find ways to make every worker more productive," Rodney said in the media release.
Following the success of The Rodney, Denham, Jaime and Simon decided to expand the project and create a separate standalone platform – Deep Liquid is the result. Barossa Valley Brewing aren't alone in bringing Deep Liquid to the brewhouse either, with American breweries New Bohemia Brewing and NOLA Brewing both making use of the technology.
This foray into building a new platform isn't a first for Denham either: the brewery owner previously built the Agora Gourmet platform, which uses Instagram to reward participants for supporting artisan producers. He admits to being something of an AI geek too, and his close collaboration with Jaime and Simon was born when the three of them met up over beers. The AIML directors were interested in talking to Denham about beer and how it was made; in turn, Denham was super interested to unpack AI in what became an evening-long geek-out session.
While the world of craft beer is often centred around people, personalities and the beauty of crafting something new, Denham says he sees this tool as a blend of art and science.
"It is not a soulless machine but instead it takes our experience, passion and company values, then adds the ability to add a lot of data analysis," he says.
“All these large companies, such as Microsoft, Google and Tesla, use AI to improve their businesses but here we show how AI can be utilised to improve the business of smaller artisanal companies."
It's a sentiment echoes by Jaime: "AI at its best augments the finest human qualities. It’s great that Denham’s brewing contacts have literally put in a can an example of how AI can positively impact human art and creativity.
"The brewers have told me the recipe benefited from the AI’s ability to access millions of data points and dynamically integrate real time consumer feedback. What is very exciting is this has applications across many industries.”