.Tinker, Taylor, Brewer, Maker

Scientific knowhow and technological prowess are rewarded on Silicon Valley's craft beer scene

Science has always made its greatest strides when spurred by powerful forces. Capitalism and global trade pushed the innovations of the Industrial Revolution. Global war efforts have led to advancements in food storage, aviation and communications systems. As it turns out, there are fewer forces greater than humanity’s thirst for beer.

By way of example, Danish brewing company Carlsberg first established a laboratory in 1876 in order to advance the science of beer. One of the lab’s first major breakthroughs came in the development of a purified yeast that is still used by many industrial brewers to this day. Another scientific breakthrough—the development of the pH scale—has found applications that stretch far beyond the brewing world.

Carlsberg continues its tradition of pairing science and brewing to this day. One of the most recent efforts of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory involves using Microsoft artificial intelligence software to predict the success of beers in development. They call it the Beer Fingerprinting Project.

The intent is not to take human expertise out of the brewing process. Rather, like many AI projects, the aim is to foster innovation. The sensors and software examine hundreds of micro samples of beer, looking at factors such as the viability of yeast strains and the types of flavors different combinations of ingredients would produce. The system can differentiate between pilsners and lagers, and predict with a great deal of accuracy how various fermentation scenarios would change the beers in question.

“The goal is to map a flavor fingerprint for each sample and reduce the time it takes to research taste combinations and processes by up to a third, to help the company get more distinct beers to market faster,” according to a post on “Transform,” an official Microsoft blog.

Of course, the Carlsberg Group is one of the world’s largest beer producers—with 140 brands distributed in 150 countries. But smaller breweries and taprooms are harnessing science and technology with the same focus and precision.

Silicon Valley’s rapidly expanding craft beer scene is propelled by an army of brainy brewers, early adopters and those who favor experimentation over the status quo. This year’s Silicon Valley Beer Week issue seeks to highlight the mad scientists of local beer.

Read on to learn about the math behind the malt, brewers’ obsession with water, a trio of tart entrepreneurs and the automated taprooms giving customers high-tech control over every pour.

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