LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) - Kentucky may be known for bourbon, but beer is making quite the name for itself thanks to a local celebration. Tailspin Ale Fest is back for a fifth year and taking over Louisville's Bowman Field on Saturday, February 17. The event boasts more than 250 craft beers from more than 75 breweries. About a third of those call the Commonwealth home.
The setting alone sets the festival apart. It’s in a WWII era hangar at Louisville Executive Aviation headquartered at Bowman Field.
“This one is just really unique. You don’t get to go to too many beer festivals that are inside of an old airplane hangar,” Falls City Brewery General Manager Drew Johnson said. "Just good times all around."
“The hangar is pretty sweet. You’ve got these awesome, vintage planes hanging out and some of these guys in their old jumpsuits walking around shaking hands with everybody so it’s a cool vibe,” Rhinegeist Brewery Louisville Sales Manager Omar Elayan said.
The timing makes it even more unique.
“Not a lot of people are throwing beer festivals in the middle of February,” Elayan said.
"We just saw that Louisville didn't have a winter warmer. I've done so many beer fests for other people, and it was time to go out on our own,” cofounder Tisha Gainey said.
“It’s a way for the city to come out. We’re breaking off the shackles of winter, and we’re starting to do the celebration that Louisville does so well throughout the entire spring season. This is the first one,” Warbird and Hangar Five Liaison Rob Givens said. “It is perhaps the best beer festival in western civilization minus the Octoberfest. They’ve had a few thousand years head start on us, but we will get there someday.”
Givens, an admirer of both ales and aviation, gets to blend both passions with this role. The retired Air Force Brigadier General helps connect the location to the libations.
“The Bowman Aviation community has always had a strong feeling about helping the community in Louisville as a whole. So, we like to offer our spaces to do things that make us a better city,” Givens said. “It’s a beer culture. We need to start remembering in Louisville that beer actually is the other bourbon.”
Those details are fun, but the organizers said it's the money they're able to give back to the community that makes this so worthwhile.
“In the past four years, we’ve raised over $40,000 for Dare to Care Food Bank,” Gainey said. “I love beer. I love throwing events, but we have to do it for a good cause. It only makes sense that if we can enjoy this and we’re spending the money on that, then we should be able to give back.”
Much like the festival she cofounded, Tisha Gainey is a trailblazer. As a leading female in a male-dominated industry, she's breaking barriers and bridging gaps every day.
"It makes me feel pretty good. Actually, it makes me feel great,” Gainey said. “When you are in an industry and you’re a minority, you gain a lot of respect. It helps boost self-confidence. It makes you feel better, and it shows other people that this can be done.”
She hopes her story and celebration inspire others to do the same.
"You've got to take the leap of faith because otherwise life is boring. You can do the same thing over and over, but that's no fun,” Gainey said.
Tailspin Ale Fest runs from 3:00-7:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 17. In addition to more than 250 craft beers, there will be live entertainment and food trucks. General admission tickets are $50 plus fees. Click here to buy tickets.