LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Bourbon may be king in the Bluegrass State, but don't count out beer. Especially craft beer.
It's not just locally -- nationwide, craft beer sales in the U.S. grew 6.2% in 2016, while U.S. exports of craft beer rose by 4.4%.
Here in Louisville, beer lovers should mark their calendars for the 5th annual Tailspin Ale Fest at Bowman Field's Louisville Executive Aviation hanger on Saturday, Feb. 17.
If you've been in the past, expect some changes. This year, the festival is adding almost 30,000 additional square feet allowing them to re-imagine the experience.
Over 250 local and national American craft breweries will be available and there's a special "Kentucky Heritage" section with beers brewed in the bluegrass. While sipping you can enjoy live entertainment, check out vintage airplanes on display, and grab a bite from one of the food trucks.
Those who are there can feel good they are helping Dare to Care Food Bank, as well. To date, Tailspin Ale Fest has raised more than $40,000 to help feed people in need.
Event Co-Creator and Organizer Trevor Cravens of All About Beer Magazine says the idea for Tailspin Ale Fest was developed in a pub over... what else... a few beers.
Here are my five questions with Trevor.
1) How did you come up with the idea for the festival?
It sounds cliché, but fitting in this case. It was literally conceived on a bar napkin. Tisha Gainey, (HP Productions Partner and Co-Founder of Tailspin Ale Fest) and I had met casually at several beer functions as we were both in the beer business. We started talking about bringing a marquee beer fest to Louisville like we've attended in other cities. I believe we decided to pull the trigger one afternoon in September 2013 and the first Tailspin was February 2014.
2) Your event has grown a lot in size, what makes this year's different?
The beers are always going to be different year-to-year with breweries innovating and introducing new flavors all the time. Tisha works really hard to curate as many limited release and hard to find beers as she can. That's part of what makes Tailspin special. Structurally, people are going to see a big change in the infrastructure and layout of the event. We've added almost 30,000 sq. ft. to the event area so we can spread things out and shift the layout somewhat. We're adding a 14,000 sq. ft. tent in front of the hangar, which is almost three times the size of our tent from previous years. We're also moving the band out of the hangar since acoustics are not the best. This makes room for a new attraction in the hangar that we think will be a big hit, the Drake's Silent Disco. Our hope is that the added space will provide for a better flow and better experience for the attendees. If it's cold the tent and hangar will have heat.
3) It seems like there are so many new craft brews and beers coming out. What's pushing this growth?
That's a great question. I believe it's a shift in flavor preferences. When we started Tailspin there were just over 2,800 breweries in the U.S. We just recently surpassed 6,000. Meanwhile, beer consumption in general has been flat (Source: Brewers Association) so it's not like there are millions of new beer drinkers. People have changed their preferences. They want more flavorful, more complex beers and they want variety.
4) What's one of your favorite beers that I might not have heard of (I know it's hard to pick).
That's like asking me to pick my favorite child. I have been tasting a lot of good stuff lately. There have never been so many beers available in the U.S. I was thinking yesterday I haven't visited the 3rd Turn Brewing in Jeffersontown in a while. They have a beer called Swooly that is a Pineapple Jalapeno Kolsch. Swooly has a pineapple and mango taste (but not too sweet) when you first drink it, then you get hit with the heat from the jalapeno in the end. Very refreshing. I'll look forward to enjoying some this summer when it comes out again at the J-Town Beer Fest we also work on... In the meantime, I'm looking forward to Gimme S'more, a marshmallow flavored beer that won our Tailspin Pro Am competition. It comes out Feb. 15 at Liquor Barn in Springhurst and will be at Tailspin.
5) Congrats on being ranked as one of the Best Beer Fests in the Country by USA Today. What makes your beer fest different?
As I mentioned before, Tisha, the co-founder of Tailspin, works tirelessly communicating with breweries and distributors to bring in special beers and brewery representatives for Tailspin. I am not sure a lot of beer fests of comparable size invest as much time or money in their beer selection. I think the location, the atmosphere and our personal attention to details also make the fest special. The hangar is such a great spot and we have so many people from the airfield community that pitch in displaying their planes or doing flyovers for the crowd. I'm pretty sure we're the only beer fest I know of who has a flyover.