Cathay Pacific creates craft beer for UK flights

22 Feb 2017 by Craig Bright
Cathay Pacific draft beer Betsy

Cathay Pacific will be offering its own “Betsy”-branded craft beer to first and business class passengers on flights between Hong Kong and the UK. Starting March 1 and available until April 30, the new Cathay Pacific craft beer has been specifically brewed for drinking at 35,000 feet, with a flavour palette designed to reduce bitterness and enhance sweetness to offset changes in taste perception while at high altitudes.

Named after Betsy, the airline’s first Douglas DC-3 aircraft that flew during the 1940s and ’50s, the Cathay Pacific craft beer uses ingredients sourced from both Hong Kong and the UK. Hong Kong Beer Co, which brews the craft beer, sourced dragon eye fruits and honey from Hong Kong and Fuggle hops from the UK in order to highlight the “travel” aspect of the beer. 

Speaking at a media launch in Hong Kong, Aaron Claxton, head of catering, said: “We all know that food tastes very different while in the air, primarily because of the cabin pressure and the dullness of your taste buds affects the way you taste your food. When it comes to drink and beverages, we do a lot of work on how we pair our wines with the food we offer. That has been beyond the realms of possibility when it comes to beers – there is no way you can take a product that is brewed on the ground for consumption and actually match it in the air.”

Over the past five months, the airline and Hong Kong Beer Co have developed the beer to counter these issues, while also inviting a tasting panel comprising craft beer aficionados, chefs, restaurant managers and Marco Polo Club members to assess the beer’s flavour.

“This is not something we’ve made before,” said Devin Kimble, director of Hong Kong Beer Co. “The yeast is very different, a lot of the ingredients are very different. When you’re in the air, we’ve found that bitterness tends to be accentuated and with hops, beer tends to be bitter.

“Sweetness and saltiness are suppressed, so we used some fruit and honey to accentuate the sweetness. The hops we used are an aroma hop – the Fuggle hop from England – and the idea was that you get something that’s more aromatic because you don’t want that bitterness.”

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific had the opportunity to sample the new Betsy craft beer at a media event at Hong Kong restaurant Mr and Mrs Fox on Tuesday. While the flavour profile is quite subtle, the beer does indeed have a very limited amount of bitterness – a characteristic likely to be appreciated among those who prefer a milder beer.

In addition to being available on all flights between Hong Kong and London Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, the Cathay Pacific craft beer will also be offered at all of the airline’s lounges in Hong Kong and Heathrow. Meanwhile those in Hong Kong can also find the beer for a limited time at Swire-owned restaurants and bars in Hong Kong, including Mr and Mrs Fox, Public and Sugar in Taikoo district, Café Gray Deluxe in the Upper House hotel in Admiralty, and Plat du Jour and The Continental in Pacific Place mall. The craft beer can also be ordered online in Hong Kong through Deli Delight during March and April.

The introduction of the new craft beer follows the introduction last week of a new inflight menu for Cathay Pacific’s long-haul flights created in collaboration with Michelin-starred restaurant Tosca at The Ritz-Carlton, hong Kong.

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