When an airline talks about “improvements” and “innovation,” they’re usually referring to a frightening ability to cram more and more seats into the same space on an airplane. So when we heard the latest news from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, we were delightfully surprised. The airline is getting set to offer up the first real draft beer in the sky.
Assisting KLM in this project is fellow dutch company Heineken, which spent years figuring out how to safely keg beer for the high-altitude, (emotionally and actually) pressurized environment of a modern jet.
So how does this modern marvel work? Edwin Griffioen, Heineken’s Supply Development Manager for Global Innovation, explained the challenges and solution to News Corp. The primary issue: “because the air pressure is so much lower in an aeroplane than at sea level, a traditional beer tap will not work as it will only dispense a huge amount of foam.” His team went to work, and thankfully for beer lovers everywhere, but especially in the sky, they figured out a way to serve more than just foam:
We do have dispensers that work on air pressure, but these were too big to fit in a plane. It was one big jigsaw puzzle, as the keg of beer, the cooling system and the air pressure compressor all had to fit in an airline catering trolley. In the end we had to leave out one of those pieces to make it all fit, so with pain in our hearts we had to leave the cooling behind.
The kegs, delivered cold to the airport, will be loaded into specially designed drink carts, designed to keep the beer at a frosty 41F:
We redesigned the trolley to resemble a giant thermos flask. The beer has to remain under five degrees Celsius. In our latest test, we easily managed a temperature of 3.5C after seven hours. We managed to set the diameter of the tap and the air pressure to exactly the right combination, which delivers at 36,000 feet exactly the same beer as you would get on the ground.
Safety certifications are in progress and KLM expects to deploy the draft beer program in a month or so. Talk about flying the friendly skies!
Images courtesy Heineken