In general, draft beer seems like a simpler way to deliver beer: No need for a bottles or cans or a packaging line, and by volume, kegs are more efficient to ship. But apparently, for air travel, that’s not the case. Outside of barrels being a bit unruly to roll down tight airplane aisles, the science of draft beer doesn’t entirely add up when you’re soaring above the clouds. That’s why Dutch airline KLM is excited about a project they’re about to bring to fruition with the help of Dutch beer brand Heineken: becoming the first commercial airline to offer draft beer in flight.
“Because the air pressure is so much lower in an airplane than at sea level, a traditional beer tap will not work as it will only dispense a huge amount of foam,” explained Edwin Griffioen, the man at Heineken who designed the special draft system, to Fox News. Using traditional methods is somewhat of a moot point anyway as CO2 cartridges are prohibited on airliners. “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.”
Perfecting the final keg design reportedly took “years of experimenting,” according to Fox, but after a short setback this month attempting to secure the safety certificates from aviation authorities, KLM says draft beer should arrive on select European flights in August.
“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,” continued Griffioen. To fill this void, kegs will be delivered to the airport cold, and then it will be the trolley’s job, which is designed like “a giant Thermos flask,” to keep the beer cool for the duration of the flight.
According to Griffioen, the final product is “exactly the same beer as you would get on the ground.” “We managed to set the diameter of the tap and the air pressure to exactly the right combination,” he explains. Finally, someone out there is making science cool again!