While the rest of us were drinking cheap domestic beer at 21 years old, Tisha Gainey had already moved on to a more advanced palate, drinking beers that most of us had never heard of at that age. She has translated that talent into planning and hosting large beer festivals, most recently, Tailspin Ale Fest. This event, which started as a small idea between Tisha and her partner, Trevor Cravens, was recently voted the No. 7 beer fest in the country. Just this year alone, in the third annual event, it donated $12,000 to Dare to Care and attracted a sellout crowd, including visitors from all over the country. She’s a very well-respected beer maven in a very male-dominated industry. Read more to find out her advice on how to drink craft beer the right way.
Tell us how you got your start in craft beer events.
When I worked for a beer distributor, I had to work several events and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed going to other beer festivals and events, too. I wanted to do my own with some unique touches added.
What exactly is Tailspin Ale Fest, and how did you conceive of the event?
Tailspin Ale Fest is a beer festival for beer enthusiasts (geeks) and novices alike to experience great American craft beer in a World War II airplane hangar.
Trevor Cravens and I had been talking about doing a Winter Warmer Beer Fest in Louisville, since the city didn’t have one, and one that was a little different than the others. When I was about to get married and looking for reception areas, I came across Bowman Field and brought it up to Trevor. The ideas just started spinning, and Tailspin Ale Fest was created.
Tell us some easy ways to educate ourselves on the subject of beer.
One of the best ways to educate yourself on beer is to try them. Use all your senses. Look at the beer in a glass, see what color it is. Smell your beer a couple times before tasting. What does it smell like — pine, citrus or hints of coffee and chocolate or even banana? Then taste it. Take a couple sips. How is the mouth feel? Does it taste citrusy, bread-like, caramel or like bittersweet chocolate? Is it sweet and viscous or cloying, or does it have a crisp finish? Read some beer books. Go to tasting events and your local breweries and pubs. Talk to people, take brewery tours. One of my learning curves was to start journaling beers to remember the taste profiles and qualities. There are many tasting notes you can find on sites like RateBeer.com. It’s more fun to learn and discuss with friends. Get a mixed six pack and pour them into clean glasses, start taking notes and discuss them with a “Cheers.”
Are women warming up to craft beer, or is it still a male-dominated arena?
Women have been involved with craft beer since the beginning. Actually, in historic times, outside of the monasteries, it was a woman’s job to brew beer. In today’s time, it is still a male-dominated industry, but women are definitely starting to level out the numbers. Most of the women in the business are well respected, too. Not only is it being able to brew a solid beer to style, recipe or desired outcome, it’s a physically demanding job as well. Louisville currently has two female brewers, Leah Dienes, brewer/owner of Apocalypse Beer Works, and Amelia Pillow, brewer at Against the Grain Pub.
Tell us about your first experiences with beer, back when you were young (well, 21 of course), that made you realize you had a different palate than most people.
I couldn’t stand domestic beer. It didn’t taste good to me. I was “educated” on beers through friends in college and at events. My gateway beer was the Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter. It was an import, larger format bottle, and it tasted a bit like black coffee and bittersweet chocolate, and I liked it. Guinness was the same way. Then I started with some amber ales, like Anderson Valley Boont Amber, which tasted like hints of caramel, and it was very malty. I started moving to the other end of the spectrum with some classics like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. A friend took me to Kalamazoo, MI, where I visited Bell’s and fell in love with Two Hearted IPA in 1996.
What is the hardest part of your job? What is the easiest?
Hardest is knowing when to stop and not going over my beer budget, plus not spending time with my husband and family. Easiest? Working with Trevor Cravens, getting creative ideas and asking family to help.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
Shoo. I’m all over the place, seems like no week is typical, but a lot of emails, phone calls, meetings … from meeting with a city official or brewery rep to meeting with the port-a-pot guy.
What advice do you treasure?
My dad’s words annoyed and haunted me as a kid anytime I asked for something, but he always said, “Work hard, get yourself a good education, and you can have those things.” I started working at 14.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my ____________.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Dining out, checking out new places and meeting up with friends for cocktails or happy hour. The festivals, too. What Louisville person doesn’t love the array of festivals from Forecastle to St. James and many more?!
Are you a night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
Sometimes both, but I’m becoming a bit more of an early bird as I get older. Early mornings are great to get some extra work/research done and other times, just reading distractions on the internet.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
- Setting the Table by Danny Meyer
- Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold
- The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
Lightning Round! Give us your:
Candy or junk food splurge: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Guilty pleasure song: “Roar” by Katie Perry (Thanks, Trevor)
Tearjerker movie pick: Just watched Brooklyn — fantastic!
Standby nail polish color: Clear for the fingers, OPI Off with her Red! for the toes
Favorite cocktail: Sparkling Gin Tarragon Lemonade
Cartoon alter-ego: Louise from “Bob’s Burgers” or Snoopy.
What are three of your favorite things right now, excluding faith, family and friends?
- Spring is here.
- Working on some new events.
- My house. I’ve got lots of projects to do, but I love my house.
Want to go to one of Tisha’s next events? Check out the Fest of Ale at the New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater on Saturday, June 4, 2016, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Proceeds benefit Crusade for Children.
Thank you to Adele Reding for today’s beautiful photography.
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