Big Data Meets the Beer Industry

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by drtth, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,720) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    An interesting look at what may be the future. (Also should be of interest to stats. geeks)

    "In December, Deschutes Brewery, the nation’s tenth largest craft brewer, announced plans to lay off 10% of its workforce. Declining sales and volume were cited as the reason, a familiar refrain as the craft beer market hits a saturation point.
    For most brewers, a layoff that significant would also mean cut distribution and production. But Deschutes has no such plans, thanks to a decision made just under four years ago to incorporate Internet-connected sensors into the brewing process.
    Beer making, of course, remains a very human-centric industry. Traditionally, workers have manually sampled and analyzed beers during the production to determine when the beer should be moved from one of the nine brewing phases to another, a process called phase shift. Transferring a beer from one step to another too early or too late impacts the quality of the final product."
  2. Lazhal

    Lazhal Devotee (453) Mar 13, 2011 Michigan

    I wish the bro's would seriously consider how useful this sites data could be to us.

    The real tragedy with this site is we could be discussing all sorts of interesting beer related theories based on real data and analysis that WE put in! Yet it will likely never happen.

    I have always thought being a "Beer Advocate" implied doing what is for the greater good while pushing personal incentives ($) aside.
    bbtkd likes this.
  3. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,221) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Trader

    I imagine the concern is not how we would use it. The concern would be how competitors could leverage the data to their own benefit.
  4. Lazhal

    Lazhal Devotee (453) Mar 13, 2011 Michigan

    That's how a business thinks, rather than a true Beer Advocate. But again, that's just my own interpretation.
    bbtkd likes this.
  5. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,720) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Isn't that also how someone who doesn't want to be exploited or taken advantage of thinks as well?
  6. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,221) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Trader

    True, but if they don't run it like a business then they won't be here to advocate.

    For 20 years I was a Taekwondo instructor at a school mostly catering to kids. Where we should perhaps have been more regimented in teaching the kids martial arts discipline, if we did that too much then the kids could lose interest and we would lose customers. We had to put the business first by making it fun, otherwise we wouldn't be there. Business first.
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  7. Lazhal

    Lazhal Devotee (453) Mar 13, 2011 Michigan

    I definitely see where you are going with this. We wouldn't want that to happen of course. I do think there is some opportunity to roll out limited access to data without giving away the keys to the kingdom so to speak.
    bbtkd likes this.
  8. zid

    zid Savant (955) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    Is it just me or does this not add up?

    Deschutes is faced with declining sales and volume... so they plan on firing 10% of their workforce... but they aren't planning on scaling back production thanks to their leveraging of data to streamline their brewing process and give them the opportunity to increase their annual production. WTF?

    And to top it all off, the brewmaster claims that: "We’re no longer staffing the personnel to be able to operate 24/7," and "They see it as a tool, rather than something trying to take their job.”
  9. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (255) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I read an article a while ago about MillerCoors which I thought was interesting and which describes a similar use of data gathering used to guide production. I thought this line was interesting:

    "Prior to installing the ERS system, fermentation was declared finished by the calendar. Each recipe called for a specific number of hours in the fermenter—no more, no less."

    I guess with time and experience, and the right equipment, it is possible for a brewery to operate like that and turn out a predictable end product. And a tight production schedule might not allow for variances in production time for the different production steps. It sounds however like these steering mechanisms allows for a more flexible schedule (mostly in the sense of cutting down production time rather than increase it), which in term would allow them to squeeze in more batches and increase their efficiency.
    JackHorzempa and drtth like this.
  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,812) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    From a fermentation time perspective it seems to me the critical aspect is yeast management. As the old saying goes (which is spot on IMO): Brewers make wort, yeast makes beer.

    I suppose if there are accurate ways to measure/monitor how the yeast is performing both from a consumption of sugar perspective and production of other compounds perspective (which esters and amounts, how much diacetyl (and precursors) exists, acetaldehyde amounts, etc.) you can best optimize needed fermentation time?

    Ranbot and Crusader like this.
  11. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (255) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Yeah, I would think that they still sample the beer and carry out chemical analysis at the various stages of fermentation and storage, and that this input would be used by the brewers, alongside any automated systems which are in place. But I'm not sure how it works in a brewery the size of one of MillerCoors' breweries. I'm sure if one were privy to the information it would all make sense, since I doubt they leave much to chance at their level.

    On a personal level I tend to view these technological advances with both interest and scepticism, as I'm sure many others do. As a beer drinker I appreciate the small and inefficient breweries out there which have existed for a century or more and who maintain a hands-on method of brewing, and have not become completely automated, even if automation certainly plays a part even in the smallest of breweries these days. There's an art to their process which I think has an intangible value which is lost when brewing is scaled up to the level of the biggest breweries. And beyond the intangible aspects I cannot help but worry about what impact a continual drive towards efficiency has on the actual end product. Whether it is a destroyer of unique and distinctive beers.

    On the other hand, if one was able to get a really in-depth behind the scenes look into the brewing process of those same large breweries, one would probably come away with a much greater appreciation for the work that goes into the making of their beers, even if the process wont seem as quaint and "idyllic" as that of a smaller brewery (and even if taste preference-wise one still prefers the beers of the smaller brewery).

    To bring it all back to the OP I therefore expect larger breweries to be more open to technology or methods of production which cut down production times and generate increased efficiency, but as a beer drinker I don't feel enthusiastic about smaller breweries doing the same, even if the same commercial logic applies also to them (or is applied by them), of wanting to produce more with less, in terms of resources or time etc. It may be irrational (unless one can prove that there is a trade-off between efficiency and the end product then is there really a problem?) but I remain sceptical just the same.
  12. I_Have_The_Runs

    I_Have_The_Runs Initiate (30) Nov 19, 2018 Illinois

    Over-saturation and the industry is still growing.
  13. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,720) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Skepticism is important because often the technology comes first and the human is expected to compensate for the limitations of the technology. However, sometimes the human comes frist and the technology is designed to enable the humans to do things they've not done/tried before.

    Whether those new things are as good as or even an improvement over the old can only be decided by whether or not they survive.
    meefmoff and Crusader like this.
  14. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,812) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Patrik, I am with you 100% here.

    From the linked article:

    “One of those could lie in using a mass spectrometer to measure flavor.

    “We have all these recipes in the database,” says Faivre. “Right now, we have match data to these recipes, so we’re getting lab analysis so we’re able to get measurements of the various compounds in these. That’s where I want to go next, to take all the data, and really try to see if we can crack the nut of what combinations lead to these characteristics that consumers are so interested in that are so polarizing. There’s not an exact formula for figuring that out as a brewer.”

    Maybe someday there may indeed be an analytical method/process to replicate an experienced/trained beer taster but that day is not today. A brewery that is claiming they can presently optimize beer production solely via sensor measurement and data ‘crunching’ is off the mark in my opinion.

    Crusader likes this.
  15. rgordon

    rgordon Champion (883) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Interesting for sure. But I think that a number of the older and larger craft brewers may still see declining sales despite utilizing these new time-saving efficiency tools.
    FatBoyGotSwagger likes this.
  16. FatBoyGotSwagger

    FatBoyGotSwagger Meyvn (1,167) Apr 4, 2009 Pennsylvania

    How are you so much wiser than these other old guys?
  17. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,221) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Trader

    Around here we have a lot of new local breweries popping up - doubling this year - and also getting new-to-us out-of-state breweries in distribution. Both of these trends are leading to more dilution of the market, with the local breweries winning for now. We're also getting a new regional mega liquor store which is bound to lead to a shakeout in retail craft sales. While each store and brewery can determine their own sales trends, the tough thing is knowing the total market demand they are fighting for. They can guess on total demand based on the population, but even if they get it close it's a moving target.