The inaugural Tailspin Ale Festival launched from the runway on Saturday and never sputtered, as approximately 2,500 people from the city, the region and as far away as both coasts convened to celebrate the magic that is beer.
Roughly 40 breweries offered samples to the thirsty throng, while four food trucks and various other vendors also hawked wares on a sunny and unseasonably warm February afternoon.
Held in the spacious Louisville Executive aviation hangar, the event featured not only about 150 different types of beer, but also at least a dozen colorful airplanes just outside the hangar’s entrance. Meanwhile, while the crowd swelled by 3 p.m., making lines long and moving about difficult, the festival never became claustrophobic, thanks to the size of the hangar and spacing of vendors.
Most of the beer vendors lined up along the perimeter, with Deschutes Brewing and SweetWater Brewing manning larger tents near the front. A beautiful bar constructed of wood and barrels filled the back half, pouring select pints.
“This is the best beer festival I’ve been to,” said Paul Young, owner of My Old Kentucky Homebrew.
“It was a little dream come true, for sure,” said Tisha Gainey, co-founder of Tailspin.
The best part of the afternoon, of course, was tasting specialty beers from regional and national brewers. One of the highlights was Flat 12 Bierwerks’ Pinko, a Russian imperial stout aged in Pappy van Winkle 23 year bourbon barrels. If you can imagine drinking a dark chocolate bourbon, you’re getting close – this stuff is a bourbon barrel stout lover’s Holy Grail.
Kentucky Ale’s Black Mountain IPA was another highlight, and represented the last remains of the 2013 Kentucky Ale Brew-Off homebrewers’ competition. From the emerging black IPA category, Black Mountain was well balanced and tasted like the love child of a medium-hopped IPA and a toasty brown ale.
Cumberland Brews tapped Winter Warmer Ale, an English style strong ale that reminded me of a Scotch ale, while Apocalypse Brew Works brought several beers, along with Alpha 1912, sort of a traditional Kentucky Common-style amber cream ale.
Bluegrass Brewing Company’s Barbarian Honey Ale was an interestingly sweet bourbon barrel ale, while Against the Grain’s Harvester of Ryes was a solid rye ale served in a contraption called a randall that allows it to soak with Amarillo hops. Cool visual, and good beer to boot.
Lexington’s West Sixth Brewing and Country Boy Brewing offered up interesting wares, including the former’s crisp Lemongrass American Wheat and the latter’s vanilla-infused Shotgun Wedding Ale.
I also was pleasantly surprised to come across Beer Engine’s booth; based in Danville, Beer Engine is working toward opening a Louisville location in Germantown later this year. Unfortunately, the project has been bogged down with a number of issues, structural and otherwise.
“We have had some problems,” said co-owner Ian Luijk.
However, concrete was poured into the foundation recently, and he estimated opening in about five months.
Beer Engine offered two beers: a mildly hoppy and lightly citrusy Freedom Ranger Pale Ale and an unnamed, barrel-aged sour ale with a great medium body and mildly sour finish. (I jotted in my notes that I could drink a keg of this stuff myself.)
I circled back to Flat 12’s booth later in the afternoon hoping to taste Saison du Flat — a French-style saison aged in reposado tequila barrels — and found they hadn’t yet run out of Pinko. I admit that I turned greedy and opted for another taste, just three or four pours before the keg blew. The stuff is delicious; sue me.
The Saison was next up, and it didn’t disappoint with its tart and earthy flavor and smooth finish.
“God bless, that’s freaking amazing,” Flat 12 sales rep Eric Finch muttered after taking his first sip.
The rest of the festival was a veritable who’s who from across the country, from northern Indiana’s Three Floyds Brewing to Deleware’s Dogfish Head to Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewing to New York’s Southern Tier, and dozens more.
And for those brave souls who drove, there was free overnight parking. Louisville’s cab services got plenty of work in yesterday, for sure.
I can hardly wait until next year.
Here are a crap-ton more photos from the festival, courtesy of Cynthia Bard Mayes:
This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.