Neural networks have important purposes that people are excited about. But that isn’t really what I’m interested in, and probably not how you’re familiar with the technology anyway. When I think of neural networks, I think of horrible drawings of cats, trippy visuals, and guinea pig names. That list now also includes beer names.
Image: Flickr User N i c o l a
The Brewers at Old Nation Brewing Company couldn’t find the right name for their new double dry hopped saison — there are only so many hop puns, after all. But then, research scientist Janelle Shane came around, armed with her neural network. This synergy brought the usual cacophony of silliness that can result from computers naming things. It also brought the brewers their name: “The Fine Stranger.”
“We’ve been struggling naming with beers,” Travis Fritts from Old Nation Brewing told Gizmodo. “There have been tens of thousands beers named in use most of which have trademark protection.”
You can read our original story about how Shane put together the dataset here:
Craft brewers are running out of beer names. NPR reports that companies are having to compromise over shared a name, or getting in Twitter fights over them. Even lawyers are settling spats over imagery, or hop puns like Hopscotch and Bitter End.Read more
How it works is pretty simple. Shane uses the char-rnn neural network framework to train the computer to “speak” using only beer words, then turns on the creativity and makes it think. In this case, she only trained the neural network on a constrained list, including beers with the brewers’ keywords: Juice, haze, New England, Vermont, citra, Belgium, spicy, clove, saison, farmhouse, and “all these trendy new hazy IPA names”.
The highest creativity setting naturally spat out some real silly gibberish.
Travis Fritts and Matt Gwynn at Old Nation weren’t too worried about artificial intelligence one day taking over their jobs as creative experts for their beers, but they were fascinated by what the neural network could do. They thought it was cool to be the first brewery to have a beer named by a neural network, “but the overriding emotion was just bewilderment,” said Fritts.
Ultimately, “what the beer is called is not our main focus,” he said, it’s the actual beer in the can that’s important. We, on the other hand, can spend our time giggling at the obviously best name the computer came up with:
A Shit Farmouse Ale.