In 2023, it finally hit home that white collar and creative workers are not immune to artificial intelligence-related job cuts. Writers realized they were just feeding the machine. Many aspects of the travel industry now openly incorporate AI. Even Levi’s is on the AI train. Now, the machines are coming for beer jobs, according to a new report.
The data comes from Just Drinks, a segment of GlobalData, which tracks job postings across a number of industries. From the end of June 2022 to the same time in 2023, Just Drinks found that breweries posted 187 AI-related jobs compared to 93 in the 12 months prior. That’s small in the grand scheme of things when you take into account all of the brewers, marketers, salespeople and distributors around the world. Still, a 101% increase is notable.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the world’s biggest brewers that are behind most of the push to AI: the majority owner of Heineken, Grupa Żywiec, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Radeberger owner Oetker Group were among the top job posters. While all breweries have to deal with logistics, accounting, data crunching and other paperwork, the biggest beer conglomerates simply have a lot more of it. The report found that, in the global beverage industry, computer and math jobs made up 45% of new AI jobs posted since 2020.
That said, AI isn’t entirely new to beer. Computing company Haber notes that it’s already been used for marketing, supply chain, stocking decisions and quality control. (From the marketing perspective, AI has proven much better at distilling data than creating actual marketing materials.)
The actual beer side of brewing is a different story. Small breweries have piggybacked off the AI headlines to get attention with generated beer recipes, though this isn’t where AI is taking beer jobs. Instead, these are typically one-off stunts. New Mexico’s Rio Bravo Brewing Company used an AI recipe in March, while Second Sin Brewing in Pennsylvania held a taste test competition pitting a new human-created beer against a ChatGPT recipe in June (the human beer won the popular vote). In April, a writer for San Diego Union Tribune had ChatGPT create “the recipe for the world’s greatest beer” that resulted in what was widely panned as a recipe that “would yield a somewhat generic beer.” It also lacked the specifics on the malt and yeast needed to actually make that beer.
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A large language model isn’t going to be creating every new beer your local brewery puts out. AI can help breweries more efficiently handle all of the tasks that get overshadowed by the actual brewing, though. Logistics are challenging, as is navigating a patchwork of alcohol laws that differ from state to state. AI can simplify the data.
It’s a common theme in the flood of news about AI during the past year. Splashy headlines about AI taking creative jobs by quickly aggregating what’s already out there are interesting, as are the debates about what value is actually being added. But the real areas where AI can be helpful are boring systems that get behind-the-scenes work done so the focus can stay on creative aspects, which AI is objectively bad at when it comes to anything new or novel. Co-founder of Deep Liquid in New Orleans, Denham D’Silva, touched on this for Brewbound earlier this year. D’Silva points out that beer awards “don’t make for a viable business,” and independents that lack scale will “struggle to create the efficiencies needed to remain competitive.”
It’s a lot more fun to talk about new recipes, hops and styles than about balancing a sales sheet, but keeping accurate records and having a system to ensure the lights stay on is just as important. Those tasks are what keeps the beer flowing, even if they’re not exactly what many brewers think of first when setting up shop.
For now, the data show macro brewers are the ones taking advantage of AI. It’s not inconceivable that this will trickle down to regional and smaller breweries that don’t have the resources to hire a good number cruncher but can plop down the cash for an AI system to do it for them. Well, at least until someone comes up with an AI system that has a cicerone’s palate.
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