Try craft beer by Kiwi micro-brewery Garage Project on some SQ flights

New Zealand micro-brewery Garage Project, whose Hapi Daze craft beer is served on some Singapore Airlines flights, brews in small batches so it can experiment with unique flavours

Alongside commercial beer brands such as Tiger, passengers on all Singapore Airlines (SIA) flights out of New Zealand now have the option of drinking craft beer made in the heart of Wellington.

Micro-brewery Garage Project's Hapi Daze - a Pacific pale ale brewed with New Zealand barley and hops - has been available in all cabin classes on SIA's 18 weekly flights since June 1.

The micro-brewery in the Aro Valley was founded in 2011 by Mr Jos Ruffell and brothers Ian and Pete Gillespie. When the company started, they brewed 24 distinctive, small batch beers in 50-litre kegs, every week for 24 weeks.

But unlike breweries that serve standard lagers and India Pale Ale, Garage Project is known for its unique flavour combinations in a constantly rotating beer list.

Mr Ruffell, 34, tells The Sunday Times that the founders were inspired by experimental food concepts pioneered by the likes of famed Catalan chef Ferran Adria and the now-defunct restaurant elBulli, which he says were "progressive and constantly changing".

Hops on Pointe, for instance, is a pale lager brewed with German malts, New Zealand hops and finished with a champagne yeast. The cheekily named beer was brewed for the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Then there is the Cereal Milk Stout, a dessert beer of sorts, brewed with corn flakes, oats, chocolate wheat and milk sugar.

"We went into it knowing the brewery would be tiny, but we could take risks and experiment in a way we wouldn't if we were making thousands of litres at a time," he says.

To continue experimenting with weird and wonderful flavours, Garage Project brews in small batches ranging from 50 to 2,000 litres. Each month, it lists as many as 35 different beers and, at capacity, the output is "a little over a million litres", according to Mr Ruffell.

"That's small when you look at some of the craft breweries in North America, which are producing 100 million litres," he says.

Hence, Garage Project does not have a core range of beers, but rather beers that have "settled into that role".

"We consciously decided not to come up with a core range and we wanted to really put it out to our drinkers to decide what we should brew," he says. "We try to balance the demands of what's popular with customers, but still leave space to develop new beers," he adds.

The partnership with SIA came about after Garage Project was invited to pour its beers at the launch last year of a new flight route linking Singapore, Canberra and Wellington. For the event, they brewed SQ292, a pilsner brewed with jasmine and tamarind, which kicked off the dialogue between the two parties.

Hapi Daze, which featured among the original 24 beers brewed by Garage Project, was chosen because it is "a Pacific pale ale that showcases New Zealand hops" and also because of its popularity with the micro-brewery's customers.

Ninety per cent of its beers are sold within New Zealand, though they are also available in California, Sweden and Australia.

Mr Ruffell says the Hapi Daze can's blue and gold colour palette, also the colours of Singapore's national carrier, is "pure coincidence".

Craft beers on flights are not a new concept. They are readily available on American airlines, but, in most cases, travellers have to pay extra for them.

"It's quite unique that SIA is making this available in all cabin classes," he adds.

He says that the partnership is "a great way to get a craft beer into the hands of someone who might not necessarily be seeking craft beer, but who will drink it if it's put in front of him on a plane".

"Hopefully it will change people's idea of what beers can be."

He also hopes to produce more beers that will be available in the air. One of the challenges is that taste buds become less sensitive at altitude. "I understand (the airline) has chambers where it can simulate altitude and it'd be amazing to experiment with different flavours and see what works and what changes," he says.

Ultimately, it is about matching the on-ground and off-ground experience.

"People travel so much now that they want to have the same high quality things they have on the ground, 30,000 feet up," he says.

"I think it's cool that Singapore has taken the lead on this, in this part of the world."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 30, 2017, with the headline 'Hapi Daze in the air'. Print Edition | Subscribe