Why beer tastes bad on a plane

If you travel a lot and you love beer, then you will understand the frustration: beer on planes is terrible.

While airlines put all this thought and effort into their food and have on-staff sommeliers and special wine programs to ensure they stock the best drops at altitude, beer seems a mere afterthought.

You often just get two, maybe three brews to choose from. These always seem to be tasteless lagers that show very little planning or care.

Beer drinkers generally get little love in the air. This just isn’t a glamorous beverage. Beer is not a drink that sells business class tickets or attracts people to first. It’s a take-whatever-comes type thing.

Maybe beer has been put in the too-hard basket. It does, after all, taste different at 30,000 feet, in the same way food does, in the same way wine does. Our taste buds and sense of smell are altered in a plane.

In this low-humidity environment, your nasal passages dry up, which causes taste buds to become less sensitive to salty and sweet flavours. That can make beer taste overly bitter, as you miss those complex undertones, meaning a beer with more fruit or sweetness to it would be ideal at high altitude. Carbonation also works differently in a pressurised cabin, meaning a beer in a plane will have a different texture to that same beer at ground level.

All of this is interesting, but it still doesn’t explain most airlines’ distain for lovers of the amber ale.


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