We Trusted a Computer With Our Beer (Name)

If you have walked the aisles of your favorite craft beer store or even paid attention to the tap list at your local brewery, you may have noticed a trend of ever increasingly bizarre beer names. New names are getting harder to come by. With so many new breweries, chances are good that the catchy and normal-sounding name you thought of in the shower today is already on a label, tap handle, or even on the front of a brewery. Most brewers now spend too much time wrangling the English language and googling with their fingers crossed to find a good name. For our new New England Double Dry-Hopped Saison, we had another solution fall into our laps: computers.

Janelle Shane, industrial research scientist and founder of the ever-entertaining blog Lewisandquark.com, has documented her attempts to let Neural Network computing systems get “weird.” Inspired by the way biological brains work, the network is given specific data and then asked to create something like it. It then finds its own way to complete the task, developing its own rules and applying them how it sees fit. It can learn and improve as it works the task as well, much more than any mere random name generator can do. We’ll leave Janelle to better explain it here. But the results are definitely… creative. The Neural Network has been applied to fortune cookies (“You cannot become better than a bird in the present”) and pick up lines (“You look like a thing and I love you”), so beer names seem like the natural evolution. Read more here about the AI’s first attempt at beer names.

Right about the time Janelle reached out to us to collaborate on a beer name, we had been struggling with what to call our new Saison for a while. We communicated about what we wanted to evoke with this beer while Janelle pulled together some data on past examples of both New England and Belgian styles. Then, well, the system got to work. Some were innovative, some were less than stellar, some were barely comprehensible, and some were just vulgar. Here’s a brief smattering of our favorite failures:

  • Silent Plow
  • Farmen’s are No.10
  • Grapecart
  • Red Suck Mas Saison
  • Farmer Lure

More great names and the complete story of how Janelle worked with the network are in her blog post here. In spite of the failures (or maybe because of it; we barely know how this works) we ended up with a healthy amount of original, appropriate, and fun names. We chose the favorite and The Fine Stranger was born. It is a creative solution to a growing problem. Perhaps we’ll give it another go and see where it takes us for the next beer. We’ve also seen the Terminator movies, though, so we’ll proceed with caution.

In case any sentient computer networks are reading this: You look like a thing and we love you.