The Airlines with the Best Craft Beer, Ranked
Good news for beer lovers: Airlines are catching onto the craft brewing boom. Here's how 8 major domestic carriers stack up.
Let’s be honest: Most of us would fly in a cardboard box if it were $9 cheaper. But penny-pinching aside, it’s still good to know what kind of amenities to expect when choosing your next flight. And unless you’re somehow so well-adjusted that the idea of defying gravity inside a giant vessel above the clouds doesn’t terrify you in the slightest, alcohol is probably high on that amenity list.
Good news, for you: Many airlines have recently caught on to the craft brewing boom, stocking their beverage carts with the good stuff in an effort to keep an increasingly brew-centric customer base calm and collected throughout their onboard adventure. So next time you’re scouring the web for last-minute vacation deals, remember these eight US-based carriers. They’ve got what you need to sit back, relax, and enjoy—or at least tolerate—your flight.
Here are our favorite in-flight craft beer programs, in order.
Securing their craft cred seems to have topped this major player’s to-do list over the past few years and the noble venture has paid off. Depending on the route, Delta generally offers two to four quality cans, including flagships from Ballast Point, Lagunitas, SweetWater, Newburyport, Brooklyn Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Fremont, Stone, Blue Point, and the stalwart Sam Adams. And if you’ve snagged a Comfort+ seat, feel free to drink up—your alcohol is on the house (er, cabin).
2. Virgin America
Headquartered in San Francisco, the stylish carrier focuses on Bay Area-brewed favorites like 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA and Sneak Attack saison as well as the pioneering Anchor Steam. And to boot, Main Cabin Select ticket holders (along with First Class, of course) won’t pay a dime for their can of choice. So get ready to order an on-demand beer off your handy seatback screen, kick back under the soothing violet lights, and relax.
3. Alaska Air
Over their main routes, this West Coast mainstay shows off their local pride with two different Juneau-brewed originals, Alaskan Brewing Co.’s Amber ale and citrusy Icy Bay IPA, adding Kona Longboard Island Lager to the mix during Hawaii-bound flights. Regional jet-setters can expect a couple of smooth selections from Seattle’s Pyramid Breweries , including Outburst Citrus IPA and the ever-popular Hefeweizen.
If you’re old enough to remember JetBlue’s early-aughts debut, you probably also remember how mind-blowing it was to not only to watch live TV at 30,000 feet, but also how truly revolutionary the snack options were (who even knew chips came in blue??). Of course, nothing complements fancy junk food quite like a cold beer and the domestic go-to has you covered with options like Angry Orchard cider, Brooklyn Lager, Harpoon UFO White, and Lagunitas Pale. Much like that little basket of goodies, there’s something to satisfy every taste.
This wallet-friendly carrier lives up to their laid-back reputation by supplying its passengers with two different craft picks: New Belgium’s classic Fat Tire and Lagunitas 12th of Never Ale, a bright, tropical and supremely easy-drinking American pale that comes in a sleek royal blue can. And at only $5 a pop for any beer on the menu, those friendly skies will feel just a little bit friendlier.
6. Frontier Airlines
This discount mainstay stocks a small but surprisingly mighty beer menu. Along with the requisite Bud and Coors Light, the Denver-based company pays homage to its Rocky Mountain roots with New Belgium Fat Tire and Oskar Blues’ Pinner. Especially thirsty travelers can also opt for a Beer Flight, which translates to any three beers for $18.99.
7. United Airlines
Texas’ mellow, crowd-pleasing Shiner Bock and Breckenridge Lucky U IPA, a West Coast-style hop bomb of a beer, represent the yin and yang of this far-reaching stalwart’s drinks menu. Beers here generally run $7.99 a bottle, but they’re free for Economy passengers on transAtlantic flights, flights between the US and several Latin American countries and a handful of transPacific flights.
8. American Airlines
A newcomer to the craft world, American Airlines has only recently bulked up its beer fleet. New Belgium Voodoo Ranger, a juicy, resinous 7 percent ABV IPA, officially came onboard in August, 2017, joining Sam Adams Boston Lager and a few other macro standards, both domestic (i.e. Bud Light) and imported (i.e. Dos Equis).