As part of their machine learning internship, two University of Adelaide computer science students, Christopher Fusco and Jash Vira, created a neural network that was able to learn how to make beer by studying a vast trove of brewing records. The result is a unique AI-designed IPA.
The Rodney AI²PA is named in honour of Rodney Brooks, an Australian robotics pioneer and co-founder of iRobot, the company behind the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. Working under the guidance of AIML’s machine learning researchers and Barossa Valley Brewing’s experts, the two students set about building a large dataset from more than 260,000 existing craft beer recipes available online, before creating a neural network learned how to make beer by studying the data.
“We generated 200,000 new recipes, and then we trained a neural network to pick the best ones and rank them,” Christopher said. Most beer contains only four main ingredients: malt, hops, water and yeast. Slight variations in those ingredients—and precise changes to the times and temperatures at certain steps of the brewing process—result in the diverse variety of beer available today.
AIML’s neural network produced recipes with around 60 data points, or ‘features’, that included not just the required ingredients and quantities, but also specific process information such as how to handle the hops, the yeast fermentation temperature, and boil times; as well as predictive indicators for bitterness (IBU), colour (SRM) and alcohol content (ABV).
The result was 30 potential AI beer candidates. AIML left the final decision on which to brew to the experts at Barossa Valley Brewing. The brewery’s founder, Denham D’Silva, was excited about the opportunity for AI to augment his company’s creative process, but initially thought the technology was too nascent to add value.
“The willingness to experiment and create interesting and premium beers has been a foundation of the brewery for 16 years. So, to largely place this process in the hands of AI, was in a word, terrifying,” he said. “Beer is traditionally a very hands-on process, and even more so for a small craft brewery like Barossa Valley. When you’re a smaller craft brewery you can’t compete on scale, so you have to be different and clever.”
Picture: Australian Institute for Machine Learning interns from the University of Adelaide Jash Vira (left) and Christopher Fusco (centre) with Barossa Valley Brewing founder Denham D’Silva. Credit: University of Adelaide