Yes, it's beer, people! Not what it looks like.

Yes, it's beer, people! Not what it looks like.

Turns out there's another reason why beer served on a plane is usually the saddest little beer in the world. Not only is it much too often mass-produced swill, our tastebuds act differently at high altitude, surrounded by background noise, low air pressure and desert-dry air. There are a few breweries (and airlines) who try and counteract the stressors while flying. Just this week Cathay Pacific has introduced an in-flight beer containing honey and extracts from a lychee-like fruit that is designed to survive the tough taste environment aboard a plane. The Swedish airline SAS has employed the Danish cult-brewers Mikkeller for several years now, resulting in 10 supposedly air-appropriate beers with six more to follow in 2017. What all have in common is low IBU numbers. Bitterness from hops is one of the flavors that tend to dominate at 35,000 feet leaving little else to enjoy. Smell is an intricate part of taste, and as our noses already suffer in dry airplane air, there is even less to smell because carbon dioxide gases out rapidly at lower air pressure taking whatever aroma particles there were with it. So don't blame ABI and their clones exclusively for the disappointing beer experience on your way to Hawaii, some part of it is simple gastrophysics.

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