Craft beer takes to the skies

2nd April, 2014 by Lauren Eads

US airlines are capitalising on the ever growing trend for craft beer by serving it at 35,000 feet.

planeCraft beer sales reached $14.3 billion in 2013, an increase of 20% on the previous year, and its addition to in-flight menus is proof that airlines are taking note of consumer tastes, according to a report by newsday.com. 

While some Delta flights have offered Sam Adams in bottles for about 20 years and Virgin America has offered beer from San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery for a few years, a number of other airlines have recently joined them.

Southwest Airlines began selling cans of New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Fat Tire on its Southwest and AirTran planes earlier this year while cans of Sam Adams were welcomed on board JetBlue over the summer.

Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier Horizon Air offer brews from the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii, and last month regional carrier Sun Country partnered with Minneapolis’ Surly Brewing Co.

Omar Ansari, founder of Surly Brewing Co, said: “Pretty much any time there’s an opportunity to have a beer, whether it be at a sports venue, or at a club, or on a plane, i’d like to be able to have some craft beer.”

“One of the big pieces to making that all work is that we finally have enough beer.

“There’s a demand for it and a lot of breweries are making a lot more beer.”

One reason why craft beer is gaining popularity in the sky seems to be the industry’s emerging preference for cans over bottles, which are lighter and easier to store on drink carts.

Sonya Lacore, senior director of base operations for Southwest, said: “Customers began asking more and more for craft beer.”

“We’re running out of Fat Tire right now. It’s clear that they are really going all out for it.”

However while passengers might be drinking their favourite craft brews, its taste, as with all food and drink, will take a hit at high altitude which causes the sense of taste and smell to be dulled.

According to GuestLogix, which processes about 90 percent of onboard credit card transactions for North American carriers, passengers aboard six North American airlines spent more than $11.3 million on beer during a five-month period last year.

During the same period liquor sales neared $38 million and wine sales $14 million.

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