Work Reworked: Technology for better beer, now on tap at Deschutes Brewery

At Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, the recipe for delicious craft beer includes whole hops, malted barley, creativity and a big dose of data science. By combining the art and passion of beermaking with cloud computing and artificial intelligence, the brewery is innovating a new way to produce consistently good beer on a large scale – a key part of its success.

Founded in 1988, Deschutes is one of the largest craft breweries in the United States and known for its diverse beer offerings, from robust Jubelale to creamy Black Butte Porter. Microsoft recently visited the brewery for the latest episode of “Work Reworked,” the company’s web series on the unexpected ways technology is changing how people do their jobs.

Beer bottles at Deschutes Brewery
Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon.

To maximize output and ensure quality, Deschutes uses a solution called PI System, which ingests real-time data on temperature, pressure, flow rate, fermentation and other information in the brewery. Developed by software company OSIsoft, the system delivers data to Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite for predictive analytics that saves time and increases fermentation capacity. The intelligent solution accommodates natural variations in hops and barley, needed adjustments for taste and aroma, and different brewing requirements for each beer.

“It saves so much time, so we can work on other things and do our job a lot better and more efficiently,” says Bri Francisco, a quality assurance specialist at Deschutes.

Assistant brewmaster Sean Garvin recalls how employees used to write fermentation and barrel data on paper when he first started working at the brewery. These days, technology for data and operational intelligence are main ingredients in Deschutes’ business efficiency.

“I think there can be a misconception that as automation increases, creativity and artistry decrease,” Garvin says. “It’s not that we’re trying to remove the human element. We always need the human element for creating a brand-new recipe. The artistry and technology work hand in hand to create better beer.”