Scientists In Belgium Are Using AI To Make Their Beer Taste Better 

Researchers in Belgium are currently exploring how AI can be used to improve the taste of their beer, which is known for its high quality and long history.

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Belgian beers are famous for their vast variety, high quality, and extensive history within the nation. Scientists and researchers are now trying to improve even further on the already famous beverage by utilizing an unexpected tool, artificial intelligence (AI). 

Professor Kevin Verstrepen of KU Leuven University led the research, which is being written about and published in the journal Nature Communications. Verstrepen and his fellow researchers reported on their process in which they analyzed the “chemical makeup of 250 commercial Belgian beers of 22 different styles including lagers, fruit beers, blonds, West Flanders ales, and non-alcoholic beers,” according to Nicola Davis, a science correspondent for the Guardian. 

Verstrepen also explained that they decided to use AI to help break down the complex relationships within human aroma perceptions.

“Beer – like most food products – contains hundreds of different aroma molecules that get picked up by our tongue and nose, and our brain then integrates these into one picture. However, the compounds interact with each other, so how we perceive one depends also on the concentrations of the others.”

Within the research, they studied properties such as alcohol content, pH, sugar concentration, and 200 different compounds that are involved in flavor. Esters are compounds that are produced from yeast, for example, and are one of the flavor components that can give the beverage a fruity note. 

For the study itself, over the course of three years 16 participants in a tasting panel sampled and scored each of the 250 beers in relation to 50 different attributes, like flavors, sweetness, and acidity. 

The team of researchers also collected around 180,000 reviews of various beers from RateBeer, an online consumer review platform. 

Verstrepen explained that some of the more prominent flavor components that could deter someone from a certain beer could actually become positive if that component had a lower concentration when combined with other “aroma compounds.”

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“Tiny changes in the concentrations of chemicals can have a big impact, especially when multiple components start changing.” 

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Utilizing all of this data, the research team was able to construct models using a form of AI to predict how a certain beer would taste, and how well it would be received from beer drinkers based on its composition. 

The group then used the results of these predictions to enhance existing commercial beer by adding some of the substances that the AI models should improve not only the taste of the beer, but the reception from consumers. 

“The results from the tasting panel revealed the addition of improved ratings for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers across metrics including sweetness, body, and overall appreciation,” wrote Davis. 

Verstrepen also stated that utilizing this technology would work best with non-alcoholic beers as well.

“The AI models predict the chemical changes that could optimize a beer, but it is still up to brewers to make that happen starting from the recipe and brewing methods,” he said.