AI helps brewers predict new beer varieties

To tackle the wicked problems of our present and future, we need to embrace a strange, counter-intuitive irony: as organizations across all sectors continue to create and adopt technologies like artificial intelligence, employees need to stay relevant by increasing their subjective intelligence. My research on master craftsmen and how they gain mastery helps connect the dots on this new dilemma, and might be the place to seek initial solutions.

When it comes to open ended problem solving and learning to improvise with what we are given; master craftsmen have something to teach us. Having to work with a material where they cannot be sure what will happen is something they are used to. Combined with the more structured training and education offered to us today, improvisational thinking in the face of uncertainty is useful to leaders in any sector. Even in the face of countless books and articles about how important it is, most traditional business school programs and organizational training fail to address sophisticated thinking about ambiguous problems.

In this story, AI enhances the notion of craft for a Carlsberg  brewing team, extending capabilities that have been practiced for centuries. 

Not many people know the level of technology and science built into a bottle of beer. At the Carlsberg Research Laboratory in Copenhagen, Birgitte Skadhauge and her team will use Microsoft AI in their pursuit of brewing better beer.

[From Microsoft Research] In its efforts to brew better beer since it was founded near Copenhagen nearly two centuries ago, Carlsberg has distinguished itself with its commitment to scientific research.

The Danish brewer established a laboratory in 1876 — a new concept at the time — and in 1883 discovered a way to purify yeast that enabled consistent beer production. The company decided to share it with other brewers, and the Carlsberg yeast is used in most of the world’s lagers crafted today. The lab went on to develop the pH scale that has become the standard in determining the acidity of a liquid.

More recently, building on research into how light and sound affect plants, Carlsberg installed big-screen TVs in a greenhouse and played Liverpool FC matches nonstop for the crop of red hops growing there, to create a special brew infused with the soccer team’s colors and the fans’ roaring cheers.

So it’s no wonder that Carlsberg now is leading the way in bringing artificial intelligence (AI) to one of the world’s oldest industries. The Beer Fingerprinting Project will help researchers at Carlsberg, the fourth-largest brewing company in the world with 140 beverage brands in 150 countries, use advanced sensors and analytics to more quickly map out and predict flavors. And it’s all aided by a move to the cloud to help speed along the company’s “Sail’22” growth strategy and better contend with increased competitive pressure.

“From our founder on, Carlsberg has had this history of innovation, of disrupting the brewing industry and constantly looking for ways to do things better,” says Sarah Haywood, chief technology officer for Carlsberg Group. “So this digital transformation ties in nicely with that.”

Christine Haskell, PHD has built her practice on credible, published research and data. In the Research Series, you’ll find highlights, shareable statistics, and links to the full source material.