Holland’s KLM Airlines Set to Offer Draft Beer on Planes

Call it the Mile-Heineken Club.

byBen Keeshin|
Holland’s KLM Airlines Set to Offer Draft Beer on Planes

Rejoice, Wade Boggs. As of next month, Dutch airline KLM will be featuring beer on tap at 36,000 feet. And yes, as you'd expect, the airline will be serving Heineken Lager. Unbeknownst to all of us who've been forced to suck down canned beer on planes all this time, the two Holland-based brands have been working for years to manufacture a mechanism that would dispense draft beer in the low-pressure environment of a modern jet.

As it turns out, having beer on tap on a plane isn't as simple as bolting a keg to the bulkhead. “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,” Heineken's Edwin Griffioen said. Heineken’s innovative new KLM keg, on the other hand, will consistently right the proportions and deliver a delicious schooner.

But the air pressure problem wasn't the only challenge Griffioen and his team faced in bringing draft beer to a plane. There were major space and technology constraints, as well. Usually, beer is propelled with CO2 cartridges, which are not allowed on airplanes. Kegs can utilize air compressors instead—but these are larger and bulkier, which causes problems on a snug jetliner.

Additionally, a plane-friendly beer keg needs to fit in the narrow catering carts that flight attendants push down aisles. In a concession to those requirements, Heineken fashioned a system that forced them to, “with pain in [their] hearts,” leave the cooling components behind. The kegs—four per flight—will be delivered cold to Amsterdam Airport, and will be kept chilly by the special cart’s “Thermos-like” insulation. But beer-drinkers unwilling to trade that can-from-the-fridge iciness for that pulled-from-a-keg taste will still be able to do so, as KLM will continue to provide canned and bottled beer.

Though novel, KLM and Heineken’s experiment to offer beer on tap several miles up isn’t the first of its kind. In 2010, Japan’s All Nippon Airlines engineered a draft beer system using dry ice; however, that keg held a mere 20 cups of beer, and was available only on flights within Japan. KLM’s Heineken kegs, in contrast, will be available to any members of the international jet set intent on washing down their misbegotten Klonopin with a just-tapped brew.