Alaskan beer hops on Alaska Airlines

ANCHORAGE — Alaska Airlines will be offering its passengers a taste of real Alaska brew beginning this weekend.

Come tomorrow, the Seattle-based airline has an arrangement with Alaskan Brewing in Juneau to distribute Alaskan Amber, its No. 1 product. Seasonal ales from the company will be offered throughout the year.

Alaskan Amber will be complimentary in first class and offered for $5 in the main cabin. It also will be available free of charge in the airlines' airport club rooms.

"We're proud to have selected a quality beer company from our namesake state," said Tom Romary, Alaska Airlines' vice president of marketing. "We really like their story. They tap into the heritage of life in Juneau. Their brand is associated with the Alaska lifestyle."

The airline is doing away with two Dutch beers and an Oregon microbrew to go with two domestics and Alaskan Brewing.

Alaskan Brewing spokeswoman Cindy Burchfield said the company has been getting requests for years to get its beers aboard Alaska Airlines planes.

"The Alaska mystique really completes the travel experience for the passengers," Burchfield said.

Alaskan Brewing was founded in 1986 and distributes its products in nine states: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, California, Nevada and Arizona. In its first year, it produced 1,500 barrels. This year, it expects to break the 100,000-barrel mark for the first time. Alaskan Amber accounts for more than 80 percent of product sold.

Burchfield said it's hard to know how much beer the airline will need. Romary said that with 550 departures daily and an average of 44,000 passengers, the number of cases is likely in the thousands.

Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, serve 88 cities in Alaska, the Lower 48, Canada and Mexico.

Burchfield said one reason it took so long to strike a deal was that the airline wanted the beer in cans because of space issues aboard cramped planes.

The brewery felt it needed to keep the beer in glass bottles to maintain quality.

Romary said the airline reconfigured its food carts and found more space and also used the space once reserved for hot meals on some flights.