While there are those who would counsel you against imbibing at altitude (it’s dehydrating…it saps your energy…it disturbs your rest), I have my own cautions, but they’re far from the proscriptive sort.
Two things: 1. Your sense of flavor’s dulled in the dry, almost-hypoxic cabin air. 2. Unless you’re in First, you’re going to be served your drink of choice in a plastic cup.
To address the former, I made my own non-scientific study of the various craft beers now available on the major airlines, to determine which held up the best, flavor-wise. The go-to drink on a flight will always be a Bloody Mary, because the umami in the cocktail will trigger your taste buds. In an airline cocktail, that umami’s delivered by the mixer alone, in this case, unless you remember to bring your own mini of Worcestershire (thank me for that one).
The winner? Fat Tire’s Citradelic, a Tangerine IPA, with their Belgian White as a runner up. Regular Fat Tire Amber Ale would be even better, given the presence of the malts on board. The primary flavors come through, though the total experience isn’t as complex.
The loser? Any other IPA I tried fell flat–in my last round of stateside flying, I had the Goose Island IPA, and previously I’ve had the New Belgium Voodoo Ranger–one I’ve enjoyed several times on the ground. The bitters leap out at you, and you lose the herbs and spices that can make a good IPA interesting.
And don’t get me started about the plastic cup. It’s wrong on so many levels. In the future, I’m sticking with a Blood Mary, or drinking from the can.