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Specialty beers are finding the skies friendlier as more airlines give the brews access to upscale consumers.

Airlines have tapped several craft brewers to offer their product during flights. The lure to the brewers is not just selling beer, but the promotional value of reaching consumers who have the money to fly, in some cases in first class.

"Being on an airline is a major statement that a better beer like ours is beginning to enter the mainstream of better beer drinkers .*.*. people who make trends," said Jim Koch, founder and brewer at Boston Beer, whose Samuel Adams Boston Lager is American Airlines' business- and first-class transcontinental in-flight beer.

The airlines promote the availability of craft beers because of their cachet.


"We're always looking for that special edge over the competitors, and I thought, what if we started carrying bottled beer?" said Tad Hutcheson, VP-marketing at Kiwi International Airlines. Kiwi carries Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser and Coors Light in cans, and two bottled beers-a beer-of-the-month promotion and a permanent selection to be chosen this month.

"Corona outsold Bud and Coors Light 4-to-1" during the program's March introduction, Mr. Hutcheson said, "and passengers in the back were getting upset because those in front were buying two at a time." The promotion has been cited in Kiwi's print ads by Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C.

One potential problem is craft brewers' preference for bottles as packaging.

"We're having our engineers look at how we can carry more, because bottles are a more satisfying experience, which people remember and associate with Kiwi," Mr. Hutcheson said.

Some brewers have airline-only cans. Pete's Brewing Co. sells canned Wicked beers in coach sections at Continental Airlines; first class gets bottles. Stroh Brewery Co.'s Augsburger is canned exclusively for Northwest Airlines.

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