This Brewery Uses Artificial Intelligence to Create the Perfect Sake and Fish Pairings

Let science choose your meal.

Sushi, ginger, soy sauce and sake

Natasha Breen / Getty Images

No matter where you go, there’s a good chance you’ll hear someone talking about AI (artificial intelligence). From selfie art to robotic bartenders, it’s a fact of the future: we’re going to continue to depend on technology in a huge way, and that includes the food industry.

And while some AI developments are simply for entertainment, there are businesses out there using it in creative ways to elevate their offerings. Suzuki Shuzoten — a sake brewery in Fukushima, Japan founded in 1689 — is one of those brands.

But first, a little recent history on the brewery: After being temporarily relocated to the Yamagata prefecture following a nuclear accident caused by an earthquake in 2011, Suzuki Shuzoten president Daisuke Suzuki wanted to find a way to collaborate and better support the efforts of the local fishing industry, which had also been impacted by the disaster. His solution? The absolute perfect sake pairings for the specific varieties of fish caught in the surrounding waters.

According to Japan Times, the fishing industry saw a decline after people became concerned about the government’s plan to release treated (previously radioactive) water back into the sea. To help support the local fishermen, Suzuki plans to implement sensor technology developed by Tokyo-based taste analysis and research firm Aissy to help break down the flavor profile of the fish to analyze how sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or umami it is. After seeing the results, the brewery would be able to create sake blends that balance the fish’s missing flavors, resulting in a well-rounded dining experience.

“I want to support the fisheries industry by further promoting the attractiveness of marine products caught in the sea,” Suzuki said in a statement to Japan Times. “If flavors that are lacking can be supplemented with sake, it will become possible to better enjoy the taste of locally caught fish—I wanted to make sake that is dedicated to each species of fish.” 

The plan is well underway — at the time of publishing, Suzuki has created sake that pairs with eight local fish species, including flatfish and seabass. And the taste test results have been overwhelmingly positive. The brewery is working on eight different sakes to be released through 2023, beginning with market-ready blends for anglerfish and flatfish in February.

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