Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific serves first beer brewed for flight altitude

Cathay Pacific is the first airline to serve a beer especially designed to taste better at cabin pressure. In cooperation with local Hong Kong Beer Company the airline created a beer which is adapted to the special conditions during flights.

In 2010 after realizing that they served nearly as much tomato juice as beer during flights, German airline Lufthansa launched a study with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute that showed that the combination of low humidity and air pressure during flights alters the sensitivity of taste buds to sweet and salty foods by around 30 per cent. Therefore they altered recipes of their food, which is served during flights, to make it more palatable. But beer for consumption in flights remained the same as with all other airlines in the world.

Now Cathay Pacific has taken the lead with Betsy, a beer especially brewed for low air pressure and humidity. Betsy, which is named after Cathay Pacific’s first airplane, is a wheat beer with full flavour but reduced bitterness that many other beers have at altitude. It is unfiltered, which adds layers of texture and complexity to the final brew. The carbonation is increased by 10% “to create a sensory experience and mouthfeel. Higher CO2 levels stimulate flavour receptors on the tongue”, says Simon Pesch, brew master at Hong Kong Beer Co.

But that is not all. “Once we build the base brew, we really wanted to put travel in Betsy’s DNA,”adds Devin Kimble, the brewery’s director.  “We sourced local ingredients from Hong Kong, ingredients from the route we were launching on, which is London (and Manchester). We then assembled a panel of chefs, or craft experts, bar owners, frequent flyers from around Hong Kong, and we really worked hard to identify the best flavour combination. “

In the end the brewery came up with Hong Kong sourced Longan fruit, also known as Dragon Eye, an English Fuggle hop and honey from the Hong Kong New Territories.

Betsy Beer will be served from March 1 until April 30, 2017 to First and Business Class passengers on flights between Hong Kong and Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.

Please watch a film on the new beer here.

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