Beer Names: Enter the Neural Network.

Saison is a pale ale, usually cloudy gold in color, with fruity, spicy flavors. Adam Barhan/CC BY 2.0.

Naming beers is a tricky business in the age of the microbrew. America has well over 5,000 breweries, and almost every beer name imaginable seems to have been taken. Cities, trees, weather patterns, and critters alike have been thoroughly mined, and brewers are wringing their hands (or, sometimes, getting embroiled in legal battles) in the effort to come up with a novel name for a new recipe.

Enter the neural network. Following a Gizmodo article about the dearth of new beer names, scientist Janelle Shane decided to sic artificial intelligence on this all-important task. And now, Old National Brewing Company, based in Williamston, Michigan, has launched what’s almost certainly the first beer named by a neural network: The Fine Stranger, a New England Double Dry-Hopped Saison.


The network allowed Shane to dial up or down the creativity. At its lowest setting, the beers were very (appropriately) French:

Saison Du Bear
Saison Du Farmer
Saison De Man
Saison De Mountain
Saison Du Chard
Saison Du Pant
Saison De Life
Saison De La Mort


But as creativity was dialed up, “the good ones got better and the bad ones got a lot worse,” she wrote. Until, that is, she pushed it up to full-tilt creativity, and the neural network went bonkers. “I stopped,” she wrote. “Perhaps you can understand why.”

Funky Ever
Saison De Mage
Fleur Dull?
Beoobegie Nard
Stutty Rye
Plop Aged
The Sprong

The brewer eventually chose a name from one of the middle tiers, at the same creativity level as “Burcumber Jane Rad” and “Don’t The Mountain.” The Fine Stranger sounds convincingly like a saison—but great beer names for other styles are still up for grabs. Anyone for a tall, frosty Yampy?

Atlas Obscura has the full story. I think this is a fine idea, for jump-starting stalled imaginations. And ‘Don’t Tell The Mountain’ would be a good name.


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    I’d like to modify Stutty Rye to “stty cooked rye”.

    Nerlious sounds like something that would be inspired by the brewing traditions of the province of Närke (archaic spelling Nerike).

    Water for the Sprong would have to come from a sprong, the barley grown in a fold and hops with a trollis.

  2. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I don’t drink beer, but I have to say a lot of these names are appealing to me, including all the following:

    Saison De Mage
    Stutty Rye
    Plop Aged
    The Sprong

    Of course, with the slightest change my favorite by far would be the Slutty Rye.

  3. says

    I hate to ask, but is this “creativity” that has a knob on it? And does this knob go to 11?

    I’m not sure that telling a neural network to be less aggressive about pruning its outputs is equal to “creativity” but then I don’t know what “creativity” is to begin with.

  4. says

    Darn, I think I got the stty error message wrong. It’s been forever and I just went from memory.
    Last time stty crossed my mind it was SunOs 3.1d

  5. says

    I hate to ask, but is this “creativity” that has a knob on it?

    Knobs, dials, whatever. It’s not creativity of any kind, if you ask me. I have no trouble coming up with names, good ones, and unusual. Most people being like Leonard da Quirm though, yeah, this can be useful for jump-starting the imagination. Why anyone would go to such trouble though, I don’t know. You can get just as good results from inputting random stuff into the anagram server.* No need for ‘creativity with knobs on’.

    *Two of my old faves: A Cube God Doth Lollipop and A Belch Ripening Muse. :D

  6. says

    :D I don’t remember what word combination yielded that one, I usually just use a few words I like in particular, such as deliquescent, octopus, rose, monster, and so on.

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