As Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell says, it's all about the science.
And he was prepared to aim high as host of what is believed to be the most comprehensive beer tasting experiment at close to 12km above the Earth's surface to see how his brew travels at altitude.
The Wellington brewery has supplied its Hapi Daze Pacific Pale Ale to Singapore Airlines for nearly a year and is looking at ways of building on the partnership by testing a range of other brews to land on a new beer in the air.
So where else but at 37,000 feet in a luxury double First Class suite aboard an A380 superjumbo from Auckland to Singapore on a Friday afternoon.
The suites go for about $3700 per person so the champagne ''palate cleanser'' — Krug 2004 or 2006 Dom Perignon Brut was top notch.
Then it was time for action.
''We'll be ticking through 30 plus beers - you do need to swallow for the receptors at the back of your throat, unlike wine tasting,'' Ruffell explains as he and Laura Bell, a craft brew colleague from Kalamazoo, Michigan prepare for the serious business of tasting them all.
''We're more than willing to put our bodies on the line in the interests of science,'' he said.
The effect of altitude and the aircraft cabin environment on taste is reasonably well known. Cabin pressure, reduced oxygen and low humidity can dramatically your ability to taste and smell by between 15 and 30 per cent, according to one study. While some new aircraft can create less arid cabin environments, most are drier than deserts.
The constant noise of a plane can also arouse a physiological response that also suppresses the ability to taste.
''There are certain flavours that are dampened and certain flavours that are heightened - we've got a range of beers that cover that and hopefully from that we'll find an interesting combination and go away and brew a special kind of beer that can be served on a plane designed to be drunk at altitude,'' Ruffell says.
The Herald was part of a five-beer curtain raiser for Ruffell and Bell's main tasting session and one of them, Strange Ways, was brewed with the aim of stimulating what's been described as the savoury ''fifth taste'', umami, which tomato flavours draw out. And that's apparently why Bloody Mary's are popular on airliners.
''There is no stone left unturned. With sour beers you can get a lot of flavour but not with a lot of alcohol and high levels of acidity. Beer needs to balance — bitterness and sweetness.''
Singapore Airlines has been a craft beer pioneer on flights serving New Zealand and demand has been such that Hapi Daze runs out on flights occasionally.
Ruffell says it's been a slow climb for independently-brewed beers to get on board other airlines.
''Once you've had beer with those stronger flavours it's hard to go back. It's hard to be on a plane and be told you have a selection of wine that is quite diverse but the beer choice is quite limited. People want the choice.''
Ruffell and Bell — whose family-owned brewery is one of the biggest in the United States — made comprehensive research notes during their session which involved drinking modest measures of each of the 30 beers.
What was the verdict?
The pair found that the rustic styles and big hoppy IPAs worked best at high altitude in the airliner.
''Our favourite beers across the board were full flavoured and in many cases brewed with special ingredients - nothing like the typical beers found on most airlines. This backs up the theory that your taste buds are dampened at altitude, so anything a little more punchy or different really stood out, said Ruffell.
The Herald travelled courtesy of Singapore Airlines