There are plenty of stops to make along the trail of Knoxville breweries, and craft beer lovers soon will have a “hub” to arrive at and depart from — a station of sorts, anchoring your journey tasting the Scruffy City’s best brews.
Knox Brew Tours owner Zack Roskop is transforming the former downtown Knoxville Casual Pint into Knox Brew Hub, a place to drink craft beer, buy craft beer and meet for tours in a space resembling a transit station.
“For me, it’s kind of about adventure,” Roskop told Knox News. “We want to capture that energy of you being at the airport, and you’re sort of excited about where you’re going and what’s next.”
Roskop, who also is president of the Knoxville Area Brewers Association, said he plans to open “The Hub” Oct. 1.
A ‘cozy, but also classic’ space
The owners of the downtown Casual Pint first reached out to Roskop in January to let him know they were planning to move on. They asked if Roskop was interested in the space, but he declined their offer — even when they asked a couple months later (and a couple months after that).
Roskop is friends with the former owners, and Knox Brew Tours had been kicking off its public tours from the location on Union Avenue for the past six years.
Eventually, Roskop said, “everything just kind of clicked and it just made sense.” The Casual Pint closed its doors in July, and Roskop began working on the space not long after.
“We want it to be cozy but also classic,” he said. “It’s going to have a lot of darker colors with a lot of train station themed decor. We are going to have some greenery in there, a bunch of brewing books and old bottles I’ve collected throughout my life.”
The beer menu, which will include 22 taps of local and regional beer, will resemble a train ticker. He’s shooting to have 70% local beer, with the rest being regional.
“If you want local beer, you go to the brewery that produces it,” he said. “If you want regional beer, you have to have space to explore that beer as well.”
Six packs will be available from a cooler, alongside snacks and newspapers in a space called “The Bodega.” Roskop has removed some of The Casual Pint’s coolers, increasing the size of the space.
Roskop’s best guess is that 75 people could fit in “The Hub,” but he’ll cut capacity to around 30 for social distancing.
Pre-filled crowlers will be another to-go option for customers. The Hub won’t sell growlers, but staff members can refill them.
Grab a guide and embark on a journey
The transit station theme will be enhanced by a prominent analog clock and a corner of the bar resembling a miniature Visit Knoxville, Roskop said. That area will have local transit routes available and also will be the spot to check in for brew tours.
A map of local breweries, roughly 25 feet from corner to corner, will be on display. Local artist Lauren Lazarus is working on a mural of bus routes connecting different spaces inside the bar.
One of the highlights will be a 3D timeline of Knoxville’s beer history. Each moment in time, from prohibition to the latest brewery opening, will be represented by a tap handle.
“We kind of plan on not calling (employees) bartenders but, instead, calling them guides,” Roskop said. “We want our staff to not only be knowledgeable about the beer but also be knowledgeable about the brewery where the beer came from. … Each brewery we’ve talked to so far all agreed to do special collaborations just for the bar.”
“Firking Fridays” on each First Friday would include an exclusive beer from Alliance Brewing Company that wouldn’t be available anywhere else — not even at the brewery, he said.
Roskop said he is trying to source a house lager for customers who come in and “just want a beer.”
“We just want to continue to carry on the mission that we started with Knox Brew Tours,” he said.
‘It’s about learning where you are’
Customers will be able to sit at high-tops, low-tops or in a lounge area. If those customers are at the bar on a Tuesday evening, they could have the opportunity to participate in the “Knox On Tap” radio show on WUTK.
Roskop will be hosting the show live from The Hub at 6 p.m. each Tuesday.
“Everyone can be involved, there will be a featured beer for each show and people can interact with the interviewee,” he said. “Think of it like the Blue Plate Special for beer.”
He’s hoping those customers will be a mix of locals and people passing through — just like at an airport or transit station.
“Sitting at a bar at an airport could either be a local who has lived there for 30 years or someone who has only been in town for 30 minutes,” he said. “It’s about learning about where you are, and I just live the vibe of that.”