Today I present you a new FavoritePlace. This FavoritePlace has four wheels, a sound system and drives to places with promising names: Balter Beerworks, Crafty Bastard Brewery, Schulz Bräu Brewing Company … The Knox Brew Tours definitely deserves a place in my favorites. Anyone who, like me, loves to drink beer, will enjoy the tour. However, I can guarantee that even those who do not have a preference for the alcoholic barley juice will leave the bus with a smile on their face.
Zack, a friendly Knoxvillean, has founded the Knox Brew Tours. Before his time as a beer representative he had different jobs. He worked in a middle school, was a bartender and a musician. He sure knows how to educate and entertain. In 2014, he started his brewery tours through Knoxville, which are now an integral part of the life of the city. The tour consists of visiting four different breweries that are spread all over Knoxville. We met on Saturday and I had the chance to ask him couple of questions about his dream job.
Over the years, Zack had participated in some brewery tours in other cities. Every one was nice, but he was never really convinced. He thought: “I can do better!”. Some time, a bunch of nerves and lots of help from his family later, he started his first tour on 28th of November in 2014. And with that, Zack hit the nail on the head. Beer, and above all Craft Beer, is currently experiencing an incredible upswing in all of America. In Knoxville, a huge number of breweries of all sizes shot out of the ground in recent years.
Meanwhile, the Knox Brew Tour is Zack’s main job and his team consists of ten people and two buses. The buses are as lively as their human counterparts. Each has its own character. Kathy, the 1990 GMC Minibus, named after Zacks deceased aunt, was the bus that started it all. She offers room for 14 people and her nickname “The Happiest Little Place in Knoxville” suits perfect. But more about this later.
Scruffy, a 1989 VW Vanagon, came later. Six people fit loosely into the German racer, who bears his name in honor of the town of Knoxville, which is also called Scruffy City. Both buses have LED lighting and a sound system, which takes care of music to sing along.
The tours always start at the Casual Pint, a beer market with tons of varieties of beer and a nice bar in Downtown Knoxville. As soon as everyone is gathered, it goes into the bus. After all the official stuff is cleared (everyone is over 21, there are no seat belts in the bus, for bank robberies after the tour you are self-responsible, behavior in the bus and the breweries, …), there will be a special round of introducing. Everyone can choose a nickname for him- or herself. Unfortunately, I can’t remember my first one, but on the second tour we were a party of three and formed the German Beer team: Pilsner, Kölsch and Lager.
Once everybody achieved to pick a name and, if lucky, remembers the name of the others the bus already stops at the first brewery. There are three samples per stop and information about the beer and the respective brewery. In a friendly and understandable way, Zack teaches his guests how, why and with what steps different kinds of beer are produced.
After the second brewery, the conversations become more vividly, the mood slowly raises and strangers become friends. When riding with Kathy it might happen that the sound and light system suddenly goes crazy when stopping at a red light. That can only mean: Time for a Dance Stop! And now you know why the bus is called “the Happiest Little Place in Knoxville”. My husband, who has gone through three tours for purely educational reasons, found this quite strange in the beginning. But already on his first tour he was absolutely convinced of the idea.
Zack started with just three breweries, not all of them convinced from the beginning on. Currently, there are ten breweries to be approached by the Knox Brew Tours, with an increasing trend: Crafty Bastard Brewery, Fanatic Brewing Company, Hexagon Brewing Company, Last Days of Autumn, Sawworks Brewing Company and Schulz Bräu Brewing Company North Knoxville, Blackhorse Pub and Brewery and Smoky Mountain Brewery in West Knoxville, Alliance Brewing Company in South Knoxville, and Balter Beerworks in the Downtown area. Zack has accompanied most of the new breweries from construction to opening and is friends with the owners and brewers. Every three months he meets with everyone to discuss the tours, what is going well and where there is a need for improvement.
Besides the regular tours from Thursday to Saturday there are other possibilities to see Zack and his team in action. Among other things, there is the Sunday Funday Slow Float and the Mystery Date Night in cooperation with other local actors. At the Sunday Funday Slow Float, a group of fun addicts canoes down the Tennessee River. There are snacks and, of course, one or two (or more) beers from the Yee-Haw Brewing Company. Exciting and romantic is it at the Mystery Date Night. The couples that sit in on do not know what to expect and will be surprised. The last time Zack cooperated with the KnoxFoodies. With their help, the participants were able to look behind the scenes of the Knoxville Zoo, had a dinner with chef Holly Hambright and a little dance at the Mills & Mine. Of course, everything with the fitting drink!
Each tour is informative, fun and we have always met new, great people. In fact, with the smart combination of tasting different beers and learning the differences in brewing the whole process of beer brewing becomes very memorable. Zack is a wonderful tour guide who does what he loves for living: meet people, talk about beer and support his hometown. Thanks Zack, for the wonderful time we had on your tours so far and which we will still have!
And also a warm thankyou to the Schulz Bräu Brewing Company, the only German brewery in Knoxville, where I was allowed to take pictures during the Knox Brew Tour.