Last updated: 06:00 PM ET, Mon October 26 2015

'Hop on Board' for Virgin's New Craft Beer

Car Rental & Rail | Josh Lew | October 26, 2015

'Hop on Board' for Virgin's New Craft Beer

Photo courtesy of Virgin Trains

From its planes to its trains (and soon, its cruise line), Virgin is a brand defined by a hip image. There are those LED lighting setups in its airplanes, Branson’s own aging-but-still-cool rocker persona, regular product placements in James Bond movies, and, now, artisinal craft beer on board Virgin Trains.

Virgin Trains is not the best-known segment of Richard Branson’s transportation empire, and usually not the biggest beneficiary of the company’s hip vibe. The inter-city rail service connects six of the UK’s largest metropolitan areas. For tourists and residents of Great Britain, these trains are a useful way to travel between hub cities in Scotland and England. And now, they’re a way to try out one of the hardest-to-find beers on the planet.

The rail provider has announced that it will be serving its very own craft brew on some of its trains. The beer was created by Rudgate Brewery, an artisan beermaker based in York, and licensed by Virgin. The drink, dubbed “Hop on Board,” is a traditional ale with elements of both bitter and pale ales. 55,000 bottles are in the pipeline, so it is definitely a limited-edition product. The first batch probably won’t last long in beer-loving England and Scotland.

Hop on Board will be served on Virgin Trains East Coast routes. This particular service runs from London King’s Cross to Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. The brews will be sold in the trains’ Foodbar cars and will also be served from mobile food trolleys.

The glass is always half full

Virgin also has a new “hoptimist” glass, which is designed so that it always appears at least half full. A limited number of the glasses will be given away to would-be passengers over social media.

The beer is one of several new features that the company is bringing to its trains. The Foodbar will also include new menu items and a “popcorn” bar. For now, the beer will only be served to passengers who travel on the East Coast routes.

It seems like all the members of the Virgin group are adept at using cleverly-named new services or offerings to differentiate themselves from the competition while also creating buzz on social media.

Little perks can give you a leg up on the competition

Though the rail infrastructure is owned by the government, different private train services vie for passengers on Great Britain's rail routes. This is very different from the US, where Amtrak dominates most of the country and is the only viable option for long-distance train travel. On the King’s Cross-Edinburgh route, for example, Virgin Trains have to compete with the overnight Caledonian Sleeper train.

You could make a case for flying between London and, say, Edinburgh. However, distances in the UK are usually too short for air travel, so trains are THE way to go. And, of course, for tourists, a quintessential part of a trip to the UK is watching the English countryside go by from a train window. Virgin hopes that people with think that another can’t-miss experience for travelers is having a beer in hand while gazing out through the glass at the pastoral scenery. 

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