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Bot takes over brewmaster's chair for northern Alberta brewery's first AI-designed beer

Dalen Landis pours a mug of Amber Waves of Grain at Grain Bin Brewing Company in Grande Prairie, Alta.  (Luke Ettinger/CBC - image credit)
Dalen Landis pours a mug of Amber Waves of Grain at Grain Bin Brewing Company in Grande Prairie, Alta. (Luke Ettinger/CBC - image credit)

A northern Alberta brewery has used a chatbot to create a beer that it hopes will become a talker.

Amber Waves of Grain, released in February by Grain Bin Brewing Company, is an amber ale in which everything — the name, the price, the packaging and the recipe — was decided by OpenAI's Chat GBT, an artificial intelligence tool trained to mimic human responses.

"We decided to just be as hands-off as possible, to see what the limitations were and what the actual final product would be if we relied solely on artificial intelligence," said Dalen Landis, a co-owner of the brewery in Grande Prairie, Alta., about 550 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

In an interview with CBC News, Landis said the beer is meant to be a conversation piece. He said it also raises a moral dilemma particularly with the packaging generated from sources across the internet.

"It's using bits and pieces of other people's content and it's producing something for us that, you know, we're using for profit."

Luke Ettinger/CBC
Luke Ettinger/CBC

An internet search on the beer's name turns up "amber waves of grain" as the title of a Merle Haggard song, the name of a California beer festival and a lyric from America the Beautiful.

Human intervention

While the goal was 100 per cent artificial intelligence, Landis said brewery staff had to direct the technology at times.

For example, when the AI-generated recipe called for a malt normally used in home brewing, staff asked for a substitute better suited to commercial production.

The scenario was similar in Victoria, where Whistle Buoy Brewing also used Chat GBT to create its Robo Beer, a hazy, pale ale it launched in February.

University of Alberta food microbiology professor Michael Gänzle said human oversight is an important aspect of utilizing chatbots in food production, especially given concerns around food safety and liability.

"Somebody is responsible and that somebody is never a computer."

Still, Gänzle said with the proper human oversight for safety the technology is worthy of a taste test.

"I wouldn't have a problem with AI-generated beer," he added. "I have a problem with bad beer."

Battling brewers block 

Landis said the entirely AI created beer removed the artistic aspect from the brewing process — something he said is half the work.

"Is it a product of Grain Bin, or is it a product of the world, or a product of technology?"

Landis said the pride in ownership is less with the AI beer. Still, he said there is merit to using the technology to combat brewers block.

"I think one of the things that makes it difficult when you're starting a project is like the blank page."

Listen | Radio Active's beer columnist gave Amber Waves of Grain a try.