One day each year that our palates look forward to (and our livers dread) is Tailspin Ale Fest at Bowman Field! We have attended every year, and we always have a fantastic time (rain or shine, and we’ve experienced plenty of both). Tailspin has garnered national recognition as one of the best beer festivals in the country and was named as a “Top 10 Beer Fest in the U.S.” by the USA Today Readers’ Choice Poll. We thank the event organizers Trevor Cravens and Tisha Gainey of HB Productions LLC for giving us a preview of what’s new and what we can expect on March 7:
This year, 40,000 square feet of ground space have been added to the festival footprint. That is partly due to the continuing expansion of the Kentucky Heritage beer tent, which will feature 30 Kentucky-based breweries, several making their first appearances, including Louisville’s own False Idol Brewing, Wise Bird Cider Co. from Lexington and Darkness Brewing from Bellevue.
The additional space will also allow for better visibility of runway activity and access to the vintage planes that will be displayed. Also new this year is the ESPN Sports Bar where the 4 p.m. UofL game will be showing and wings will be available from Four Pegs Beer Lounge. Oh, and beer.
When it comes to beer, Tailspin delivers both quantity and quality. Overall, we can expect 75-plus breweries each bringing two to three beers (you do the math). While some of them will undoubtedly be staples that you’ve had before, there are plenty of opportunities to relish rarer offerings. Stylistically, you can check out the Bourbon Barrel Beer Bar where all beers are aged in bourbon barrels. Or, the Cider and Sour Bar if you’re craving a good pucker.
A few of the special beers we’re going to be on the lookout for:
• It’s the Jam! A collaboration beer from Bourbon Barrel Foods and Akasha Brewing Co., it’s an Imperial Milk Stout with smoked bourbon cacao nibs and black raspberry jam, weighing in at 10.5% ABV.
• Mint Condition. A Thin Mints-inspired stout and Tailspin’s official Pro-Am beer. Each year the LAGERS (Louisville’s homebrew club) hosts a competition among homebrewers, and the winner (this year, David Price) gets a chance to brew their beer with professional brewer Leah Dienes of Apocalypse Brew Works.
• Sonoma Farmhouse Kriek Framboise. It’s not just our local brethren that we can thank for bestowing unique quaffs upon us. Tailspin has garnered a strong enough reputation that sometimes national breweries will contact it and offer up rare kegs. For example, this year Lagunitas Brewing Co. will be providing the only keg in the state of this farmhouse ale brewed with cherries and raspberries, aged in cognac barrels with Brettanomyces.
If you’re like us, approximately 37.34 minutes into beer sampling you’ll pause and say “Huh. I might need to get some food.” Not to worry. With eight food trucks, you’ll be able to curate the perfect pairing. Food samples will also be available from a few different local craft food makers, including Froggy’s Popcorn. And — as much of a mainstay at the Tailspin festival as the beer and planes — the LEO-sponsored pretzel necklaces will be available for both palate-cleansing and “absorption” purposes.
Like beer for your ears, live music will be provided for your enjoyment. 100% Poly, usually specializing in ‘70s rock, will perform a special, all-80s set. We highly recommend that you and your crew grab a “before-and-after” Tailspin pic at the Magnolia Photo Booth. And, there’s a silent disco. If you’re like us, your thoughts on this matter evolve thusly: beginning of the festival — “Silent disco? That’s dumb.” Middle of the festival — “Let’s go laugh at those dorks doing silent disco!” End of the festival — “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you with these headphones on! Beer makes me dance better than J Lo!”
We can joke all day about overindulging at Tailspin… in part because we’re lucky enough to live in easy walking distance from Bowman Field. However, the festival takes responsible drinking seriously, as should you, kids. Designated Driver tickets are available, as well as shuttles from nine locations. Fifteen bucks get you a round-trip shuttle ticket, which also includes a pint and a “limited bite” appetizer. The shuttles have numerous advantages: They help you avoid drinking and driving; they help you avoid parking issues at Bowman Field (anyone else get stuck in the mud last year?); they help you avoid spending $85 on an Uber thanks to festival surge pricing; and, shuttle riders avoid the lines by getting ID checks completed en route so they can just waltz past us walkers/drivers into the festival when they arrive (we’ll are trying to minimize our bitterness in the spirit of safety and for the greater good).
Most important of all, you can feel super good about yourself (even the day after Tailspin) because this event benefits Dare to Care. Tailspin has generated over $60,000 for Dare to Care so far, and last year’s proceeds alone resulted in 30,000 meals being provided to local families in need. You see, beer is food! You can feed even more families this year by buying raffle tickets ($5 each or 5 for $20). All of the raffle ticket sales go directly to Dare to Care, plus you’ll get a chance to win some cool prizes, such as bourbon and event tickets.
VIP tickets are already sold out, and general admission tickets have sold out every year, so act fast. Look for Dare to Care staff selling raffle tickets at the event. And look for us at the end of the night on the Silent Disco floor thinking we’re shaking it like Shakira.
And, please — no recording us. •
Tailspin Ale Fest
Saturday, March 7
3345 Roger E. Schupp St.
Prices and times vary