Beer Man

Southwest Airlines serves a craft beer, New Belgium's Fat Tire, for the first time

Craft beer has made major inroads in restaurants and bars over the past few years, but the industry has had trouble breaking into other venues, including sports stadiums and airlines, which need to sell huge amounts of beer very quickly.

But last weekend, Southwest Airlines joined Frontier and Alaska by offering at least one craft-beer option on board. The Dallas-based carrier now sells New Belgium's Fat Tire on all 683 Southwest and AirTran planes in its fleet, says a Southwest spokeswoman.

See also: Frontier Airlines asks flyers to choose which Colorado beer to serve on board

It's the first time Southwest has sold a craft beer, and the only one it is offering.

"We continually look for opportunities to refresh and add variety to our onboard offerings to enhance the customer experience," Michelle Agnew says in an e-mail. "Our customers like a variety of products. We felt like New Belgium (Fat Tire) would provide an option that we have not carried before and a taste preference for many."

Agnew didn't say why the airline chose New Belgium, but the company is the third-largest craft brewer in the nation, and is able to provide beer in a higher quantity.

"It's too early to tell what our usage numbers will be but with such a great product, we're sure it'll move," Agnew says. There are no current plans to serve an additional craft beer because of space constraints.

New Belgium spokesman Bryan Simpson says that one of the benefits of packaging Fat Tire in both bottles and cans is that cans can be used in certain venues, like airlines, where glass doesn't work. "It's another interesting place to introduce folks to craft if they haven't had it yet," he adds.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes