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HK airline offers beer ready to be a high flier

By MIKE PETERS | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-03 08:19

HK airline offers beer ready to be a high flier

Betsy Beer is named for Cathay Pacific's first aircraft, a Douglas D-3 that traversed Asia in the 1940s and '50s. [Photo provided to China Daily]

If you've ever noticed that your favorite beer tastes a bit off when you're on an airplane, it's probably not because of improper storage or an old sell-by date.

It's your mouth-and maybe how cabin pressure affects carbonation.

Cabin pressure and altitude both affect passengers' taste buds in flight, but Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Beer Co have teamed up to craft a solution. The airline is touting Betsy Beer as "the world's first hand-crafted bottled beer brewed to be enjoyed at 35,000 feet".

The brewer used both Hong Kong and UK-sourced ingredients for the new beer, which is being first served to first- and business-class passengers on flights between Hong Kong and destinations in Britain-Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester-from now until April 30.

"We know that when you fly, your sense of taste changes," says Julian Lyden, marketing manager for Cathay Pacific. "Airlines address this for food in certain ways. But nobody has ever tried to improve the taste of beer at altitude."

To find the perfect balance for a beer served both in the air and on the ground, the airline and the brewer pulled together an expert tasting panel-including leaders of the Hong Kong Craft Beer Association; May Chow, recently voted Asia's best female chef for 2017; Willem van Emden, Swire Restaurants' general manager. Cathay Pacific's management, cabin crews and Marco Polo Club members also got a chance to sip in judgment.

Aroma is a critical factor with a change in altitude, and Betsy's stable aroma is partly driven by the inclusion of longan, or dragon-eye fruit, which enhances the brew's round, rich textural quality. The brewer also used a little New Territories-sourced honey to give the beer agreeable floral notes, and the Fuggle hop that gives many traditional British craft ales a pleasantly earthy flavor.

Betsy Beer also will be available on the ground at the airline's lounges in Hong Kong and Heathrow as well as a select number of Swire-owned restaurants in Hong Kong, including Mr & Mrs Fox, Cafe Gray Deluxe, Plat du Jour, Public, Sugar and The Continental for a limited time. Online shoppers in Hong Kong can grab bottles at Deli Delight (, the exclusive retailer for Betsy Beer during March and April.

The beer is named after "Betsy", Cathay Pacific's first aircraft, a Douglas DC-3, which flew passengers around the region in the 1940s and 1950s.

Ningxia weather woes

China's premium wine region Ningxia will likely see a drop of 5 percent in wine production compared with last year due to heavy rainfall in September, wine expert Li Demei tells the trade publication dbHK. The fall rains caused a series of diseases including mildew, "the main reason for the production decline," Li explained, adding that a "5 percent decline is still within normal range".

Stimulated by local offerings such as Silver Heights and Helan Qing Xue that won international wine awards, the Ningxia government hopes to expand vineyard acreage in the region to 700,000 mu (about 46,667 hectares) by 2020, which will bring its annual wine production to 200 million bottles. Ningxia's current acreage is 40,666 hectares.

Li, however, remained cautious and called the official target a "suggestion". He told dbHK that while Ningxia has made inroads in global wine market in recent years, planting should be based on market demand and production capacity.

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