'We give the brewer superhuman skills’: Using artificial intelligence in brewing

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Should brewers welcome AI or worry about the implications on craftsmanship? Pic: iStock/lineartestpilot
Should brewers welcome AI or worry about the implications on craftsmanship? Pic: iStock/lineartestpilot
Are we set to enter an era where robots brew beer and artificial intelligence takes over from brewers? BeverageDaily talks to IntelligentX Brewing Co, which has launched the ‘world’s first beer brewed by artificial intelligence.’ 

The London-based company has created a premium beer​ that uses complex machine learning algorithms to improve future batches.

It does this by taking reviews from consumers, and feeding these back to the AI where information is used by the brewing algorithm.

huw leith intelligentX
Huw Leith

Will craftsmanship lose out to robots?

For many brewers – and indeed consumers – creating beer is about the craftsmanship behind the brew. So does IntelligentX really believe AI can replace this?

“We agree that AI could never replace a brewer’s skills and experience,” ​co-founder and CEO Hew Leith told BeverageDaily.  

“What we’ve created is a beer which uses AI to improve itself based on customer feedback.

"In a traditional brewery, the brewer makes decisions on what to brew based on trends, their own intuition or anecdotal feedback from people who tried previous batches. 

“They may or may not take on board this feedback for the next batch. 

“With our beer we use machine learning to give the brewer superhuman skills, enabling them to test and receive customer feedback more quickly than ever before."

Leith emphasizes that, therefore, AI is designed to be used alongside both the brewer and consumers. 

"It means we can respond to consumers’ changing tastes faster than traditional brewers," ​he said. "It's about putting all the customers in the same room as the brewer.”

AI cannot operate in isolation

And, crucially, AI needs a brewer to operate in the first place.

“Right now AI doesn’t have the creative capabilities to brew amazing beer right off the bat, without a human,”​ said Leith. “The biggest challenge is ensuring our feedback mechanism is really user-friendly so humans are able to talk to ‘ABI’, our AI.”

And he admits there have been times where ’ABI’ has missed the mark with her brews – but explains this is necessary in order for the AI to develop.  

'There have been many times where the brewer has rejected AI recipes"

Hew Leith

“We've spent the last 12 months brewing thousands of minimum viable products and testing them with beer lovers,”​ he said.

“There have many times where the brewer has rejected recipes ABI has created. It’s all part of her learning process!”

AI in brewing: is it a scalable model?

IntelligentX sees craft beer as a category ripe for innovation with AI: it’s a fast-evolving sector, and brewing is a process where lots of decisions need to be made.

All these choices – ingredients, methods, etc. – can be put in a data structure that AI understands.

For Leith, a key advantage of AI is that the consumer is an active participant in developing the next brew.

It can also accommodate personalization and other variations based on regions, individuals, or categories.

beer phone - Kikovic
ABI takes reviews from consumers, which are fed into the brewing algorithm. Pic: iStock/Kikovic

IntelligentX has launched ‘pirate black’ bottles of beer, while inviting consumers to use an online feedback system to review the drink.

The beer is limited edition, but could we eventually see AI used on a large scale?

For Leith, the answer is definitely yes. We believe this method is scalable,” ​he said. “Clearly the larger brewers think so, given the amount of calls and emails we’ve had from them!”

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