Drinks

Pints on a plane! Craft beer favorites are now just a flight away 

March 6, 2014 at 1:50 PM ET

Surly beer on Sun Country Airlines
Courtesy of Sun Country Airlines / Surly Brewing

There are many factors that go into choosing which airline you’re going to fly – ticket prices, frequent flier points and route options all play a part. But now there’s another very compelling reason to choose who you fly with: the beer selection.

More airlines are making connections with craft brewers to offer their beer-loving passengers something other than the watery industrial light lagers that have dominated airborne beer services in the past.

Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines may have just become America’s most attractive air carrier for beer geeks, as they’ve started carrying Surly beers on their flights.

For those of you who have never tried a Surly beer, it’s not your fault. The Minnesota-based brewer’s wares are only available in their home state and the Chicago metro area. This scarcity in the rest of the country has made Surly’s well-crafted brews the object of desire for beer geeks, who will have their choice of three aggressively-named Surly offerings when they fly Sun Country: Furious (the brewery’s flagship beer), Bender and Hell.

“Sun Country is our hometown airline and as a hometown brewer it's great to do something like this,” Surly president Omar Ansari told TODAY.com. “Now craft beer fans can actually drink a beer on their flight and not have to wait until they find a bar when they land.”

Surly hopped on the bandwagon of an ongoing trend. Samuel Adams didn’t waste a moment after finally putting their beers in cans last summer, striking a deal with Jet Blue to offer Boston Lager on their flights. Frontier Airlines has been having lots of fun with their craft beer offerings, letting people vote online to determine which canned Colorado craft beer they should offer at 32,000 feet (Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale was the runaway winner). Southwest Airlines recently got into the action as well, adding New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber to their list on in-flight offerings.

Judging from the responses to the news on Sun Country Airlines Facebook page, the partnership has been well received by the public. Brittany Chaffee liked the fact that the two Minneapolis outfits were working together. "Two local companies, one beautiful relationship," she said. Chris Finlayson likely echoed the feelings of many beer geeks when he posted, "I'll have to fly Sun Country more often!"

The recent agreement with Sun Country isn’t the only way Surly will be spreading their wings in 2014. They are building a new “Destination Brewery” in Minneapolis, complete with a 350 person beer hall, an event center and a full restaurant, slated to be finished by the end of the year. The new facility will more than triple Surly’s output from 32,000 barrels a year to over 100,000 barrels a year. More beer means a wider distribution footprint, and that’s good news for those of us who aren’t going to be able to fit Sun Country into our travel plans.

In the meantime, Surly’s Ansari said the deal with Sun Country makes the air carrier special. “It makes it the Surly-est airline, that's for sure,” he joked. “What's better than getting Surly at 30,000 feet and not getting into trouble?”

Jim Galligan is co-founder of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog, where he and his brother Don cover the ever-evolving world of craft beer and distilled spirits. Follow him on Twitter.

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