Tailspin Ale Fest turns 3 with more beer and more charity

crowd-shot-tailspinTisha Gainey and Trevor Cravens hope to donate $10,000 to Dare to Care following this year’s Tailspin Ale Fest, set for Saturday, Feb. 20, at Louisville Executive Aviation Hangar. That would be roughly triple the donation made the first year the festival was held.

Of course, there will be beer, as always. Lots of delicious, craft beer. But one of the key focuses of the festival continues to be on maintaining its local flavor. For instance, the first Tailspin featured seven Kentucky breweries. This year, there will be up to 20. Throw in local food trucks and other vendors, and a whole lot of local artisans and businesses are benefiting, in addition to the charity.

Other Louisville beer festivals operate similarly, from the Fest of Ale to Highlands Beer Festival to Brew at the Zoo. By contrast, a number of people likely will attend Louisville On Tap this Saturday. While there will surely be plenty of beer to sample, this festival is one of more than 80 “On Tap” events produced by a Connecticut-based company called Townsquare Media, which primarily owns radio stations in mid-market cities and does live events.

There is no charity beneficiary; profits go to the parent company, so in essence, it is an out-of-town cash grab. For example, Louisville On Tap has its own Groupon. When I tried to contact the umbrella America On Tap asking for media info about the Louisville version of the event, I found no contact name or info. I filled out a website form asking for information, and the response was simply, “Who do you work for?” When I responded “Insider Louisville,” I received no further communication.

west-sixth-TailspinMeanwhile, as I sat talking with Cravens and Gainey about the 2016 Tailspin, I could barely type quickly enough to catch all the new features and hard-to-find beers. First off, the founders have configured efforts to make sure there is a sizable donation when it’s all said and done. Whereas the first year, the final donation was dependent upon the festival’s success, now that is not totally the case.

“We’ve expanded our efforts just by working with sponsors and distributors to find ways to raise money,” Cravens said. “We’re connecting the dots between nonprofits and people in our circle. We’ve created other avenues.”

One such avenue, which started last year, is Paper Stein, a project with Tailspin’s title sponsor, Liquor Barn. It enables customers to donate in advance without going to the event. Meanwhile, breweries now have the option to easily donate the money they make from the sales of their kegs to the festival, Gainey said.

By raising cash, rather than, say, having a can drive at the door, it enables Dare to Care to purchase fresh food, she added.

Meanwhile, new sponsors Yum! Brands Foundation (a Dare to Care supporter) and Middleton Reutlinger Law Offices are community-focused and will help maximize the funds raised at the festival itself. And with the festival’s continued growth and success, more and more sponsors are interested in getting involved.

“It’s so nice that it’s all falling into place,” Gainey said. “We’re just tweaking things to make it better.”

Of course, let’s not forget the beer. Gainey rattled off a long list, and quite a few will have hardcore beer nerds salivating. Here are several Tailspin attendees should get a chance to sample:

Founder’s Kentucky Bourbon Stout, a highly desirable brew all beer nerds know; Country Western Vol. 3, a collaboration between Lexington breweries West Sixth and Country Boy not readily available in Louisville; New Belgium Transatlantique Kriek, a cherry sour; Sweetwater The Pit & Pendulum, an apricot American wild ale; and Great Lakes Brewing/Oskar Blues Brewery/ Lagerheads Brewing collaborative called Mash Appeal, which is a Kentucky Common that is usually only available on premise.

This represents just a small fraction of the list.

And since beer festivals are affairs in which beer samples can quickly sneak up on people, this year Tailspin Ale also will unveil a phone app. Not only can you rate the beers as you try them, you can get info on the brewery and also see the timed tapping schedule.

Meanwhile, Lou’s Brew Bus and World of Beer will team up to provide a $10 pint-and-ride by bus, as well as shuttles to and from the parking lot. Cravens noted he has conducted research to find out the best way to handle the gate so that people will be able to get into the festival with minimal waiting time. Add to that music, pin-up girls, a photo booth and more, and it sounds like another successful festival is on tap.

Finally, for those upset with the bathroom situation from last year, that has been reconfigured to mirror year one, Gainey said. She also suggests to all attendees that they dress warm; it’s an airplane hangar in February, after all. (There are plenty more features and details at the festival’s website.)

As for Louisville On Tap, the Tailspin folks hold no ill will, but it bears noting that a festival like that one is aimed at a different demographic. In other words, it might not be as desirable for the hardcore beer lover.

“It’s kind of a beginner’s beer festival,” Gainey said, echoing a promotional video on the America On Tap website.

“They get to an audience we’re probably not reaching,” Cravens agreed, noting that Louisville is simply a city that enjoys staying busy, which makes it attractive for out-of-market companies. “It’s hard to look at Louisville and not think it’s an opportunity to do something.”

Tailspin Ale Fest tickets are $75 for VIP, $45 for general admission and $15 for designated driver. The festival is 3-7 p.m., with VIP ticket holders admitted at 2 p.m.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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