Yampy IPA or Fire Pipe Amber Ale, anyone?
Naming a beer is far more complicated than you might think. Just this week, the Brewers Association announced that America has 5,562 operating breweries. Pretty much every one of those breweries is producing multiple beers, and assuming those beers aren’t simply given a common name like “Stout” or “Pale Ale,” the names of these beers are eligible to be trademarked. One famous example is that “West Coast IPA” is trademarked, even though many would consider that a well-known style. It’s part of the reason beer names have gotten more ridiculous of late – things like “Fried Fried Chicken Chicken,” for example. For years now, breweries have been running out of sensible names.
Janelle Shane believes she might have an answer. The tech site Gizmodo recently discussed beer names with the research scientist who’s been known to dabble in neural networks. In the past, she’s used this form of artificial intelligence to come up with computer-generated but hopefully human-sounding names for things like paint colors and metal bands. This time around, she decided beer names were her calling.
“Ryan Mandelbaum of Gizmodo sparked this project by putting me in touch with Andy Haraldson, who very generously provided me with a huge dataset of hundreds of thousands of beer names that he extracted from BeerAdvocate.com,” Shane wrote on her Tumblr site. “There were over 90 types of beer in the full dataset (for example, black ales, Belgian dark ales, euro dark lagers, schwarzbier, dark wheat ales, and English mild dark ales). To make the task manageable (and to combine a few datasets that only had a few hundred unique names) Eva Gulotty sorted them into broader groups. And then I set the neural network to work on each category.”
“It worked,” Shane wrote of the results. “The neural network produced unique names that were plausible, or weirdly awesome, or so outlandish that they sounded like the sort of beer you could only buy after a multi-day scavenger hunt involving hang gliding, codebreaking, and Fairbanks, Alaska.”
Of course, you can be your own judge. Lots of the names – about a couple dozen each for IPAs, Strong Pale Ales, Amber Ales and Stouts – can be found on Tumblr. You can sign up to see even more there if you like. But here are some of my favorite… for reasons I don’t even totally understand:
Juicy Dripple IPA, Yampy IPA, Spore of Gold Strong Pale Ale, Fire Pipe Amber Ale, Sir Coffee Stout and, of course, Morning Dave Vanilla Coffee Stout.
Who wouldn’t want to drink a “Morning Dave”?