Computing Craft

There is a new beer, and presumably it's going to make us joyful because, like a successful search for the Fountain of Youth, this liquid holds the secret to happiness.

High Peak Brewing's Computed Craft Beer

High Peak Brewing's Computed Craft Beer

Maybe. My suspicions about the new beer, called simply "0101," were first raised when I saw that the project was led by a "customer engagement agency." Only at the end of the press release announcing the new beer did anyone actually speak about the brewery, and nothing was said about the human brewer. I'm sure there is a brewer somewhere but Watson is getting the credit for the project. Watson is IBM's supercomputer that is in the vanguard of researching AI - that's artificial intelligence.

The computer's role in the project was to analyze tens of thousands of social media messages over the New Year holiday to see what people posted, tweeted and snapped that would indicate a conjunction of beer and emotion. "Having a great time with friends and XYZ beer," for example, or "Drinking this IPA makes me the life of the party." Watson tried to figure out what elements in beer were consistently linked with emotions like joy, optimism, excitement and, one might hope, the absence of a hangover the next morning.

What Watson found was that the most frequently expressed positive feelings over the holiday were love, joy, harmony, cheerfulness, optimism, resolution and excitement. After crunching the numbers and comparing the recipes for nearly 3,000 beers, the craft computer determined those emotions coincided with certain ingredients in beer. According to the British newsletter Drinks Business, those ingredients were: "Honey, which denotes love and cheerfulness, the Nelson Sauvin hop, for optimism, imagination and resolution, and the Hallertauer hop, for excitement and emotion."

The final step was to take the ingredients and make a beer that fit the recipe. At Derbyshire's High Peak Brewing, some master brewer must have been aghast to be handed a slip of paper cranked out of a computer and told, "Here, make this." Where is the craft in that? Cunning, maybe, but craft? I think not. No word how the beer actually tastes; presumably everyone who tried it is so happy they are dancing around somewhere rather than writing a tasting note.

Why call the beer 0101, though? That is the binary expression of the decimal number 5, which so far as I know has no significance whatsoever. Why not use the same space on the label to make it 1010, which is binary for number 10. At least we can all respect a brew that gets a perfect 10. Perhaps that name was already taken by another supercomputer group, however.  I suspect the NSA is already hard at work on a recipe for a beer of its own. It's elementary, Watson.