Can artificial intelligence build a better beer? Deep Liquid believes it can, and that’s the value proposition the Australian company is putting forth as it introduces its technology to Bay Area-based brewers and beer drinkers during SF Beer Week.
It may sound high tech—if not high falutin—but according to Deep Liquid’s CEO and co-founder Denham D’Silva, it’s actually about getting back to the basics of brewing and re-establishing human connections within the beer world.
D’Silva, who founded Barossa Valley Brewing in South Australia in 2005 and showcased the AI-enabled product at Concord’s Hop Grenade taproom on Tuesday, said that the craft brewing industry of decades past used to be a smaller enterprise based around a tight-knit community of brewers and beer enthusiasts who would directly communicate with each other. But as the industry has grown, that direct dialogue between consumers and brewers has grown weaker.
“The ability to have that direct customer connection is really hard. It just really doesn't exist,” D’Silva said.
And that’s where Deep Liquid comes in. The product helps to connect consumers with brewers by allowing beer drinkers to weigh in on brews via QR code. An AI compiles the reviews into a report, which the brewer can use to tinker with or create new brews that appeal to drinkers’ desires and tap into their taste preferences. The AI can even make recipe suggestions based on customer feedback.
D’Silva said that the intention of the technology is not to replace brewers, but to give more data to beer creators to inform their decisions and help them compete with larger beer makers.
“Artificial intelligence is really handy at making suggestions. At no point do our brewers just blindly brew what the machine says,” D’Silva said. “But it is a really good at pointing them in a direction, and then they make their own artistic decisions as to where they want to take the beer.”
But some brewers are a little more skeptical of this technology than others. Felipe Bravo, Co-owner and Head Brewer of Fox Tale Fermentation Project in San Jose, told the Standard that while Deep Liquid’s technology could be useful for reviewing customer feedback or educating new brewers, he probably wouldn’t use Deep Liquid’s technology to come up with recipes. That’s one step too far in the automation of craft brewing, he thinks.
“What makes us brewers is that we have a direct hand in designing these recipes,” Bravo said. “If you kind of take that aspect away, you have a computer design it, like, what does that leave you with? […] What does the brewer have in that concept when you kind of take away the development of the job?”
As longtime Bay Area craft brewer Dick Cantwell sees it, Deep Liquid’s technology is another tool that craft brewers can utilize to enhance their product and, in the future, could become as standardized as using a thermometer or hydrometer for brewing.
“So way back in the Middle Ages, they didn't have thermometers. They didn't have hydrometers,” Cantwell explained by way of example. “People back then might have thought it was anathema to use something that corresponds to what a thermometer does. But, you know, we use them now and this is another thing that we will come to recognize as just as valuable.”
Ultimately, it will be up to brewers and consumers what they do once this technology is in their hands. Deep Liquid is currently free to use, but the company is exploring a monthly subscription model and using its stint in the Bay Area to get feedback from brewers and consumers because of the region’s reputation for sitting at the nexus of craft brewing and technological innovation.
“It's not like you have to hand this over and become a slave to the machine or you have to become a Luddite, right?” D’Silva said. “You can choose to use it as much or as little as you want.”
Christina Campodonico can be reached at email@example.com