When Nathan Robinette opened the first Casual Pint in Bearden, I’m not sure he had a plan to rapidly expand, but that’s what happened. I first wrote about Casual Pint in May 2012, when I visited the Bearden location after hearing one was planned for Union Avenue. In July I wrote about the opening of the downtown Casual Pint at 421 Union Avenue. Since that time he’s opened locations in Fountain City, Northshore, Hardin Valley and Maryville. Locations are coming soon to Farragut and Chattanooga. It appears the franchise is likely headed out of state after that. Pretty impressive growth.
Along the way, the decision was made to license franchises and that’s where Alan and Natalie Knauth enter the picture. Last February they made one of their occasional trips to downtown to celebrate his birthday. They’d been thinking they’d like to try owning a business. Both are from Kingston and are UTK graduates. Natalie worked for UT in undergraduate admissions and Alan at Blount Memorial as a pharmacist. That evening the couple landed at Casual Pint on Union and noticed the coasters displayed a mention of available franchises. They asked questions, filled out paperwork and by July had the franchise for the location where it all started.
They’ve enjoyed the downtown location and found it to be a comfortable fit. Natalie mentioned the “feeling of community,” of which those of us who live downtown are well aware. Alan spoke of how surprised he was with the ease of driving and parking downtown. The couple has found the transition amazingly smooth. As a location already up and running, most of the bugs had been worked out. Natalie quit her UT job to work full time at the beer market, but says the hours aren’t terribly long.
They are doing some fun things at the market, such as live trivia on Mondays. Wednesdays find them doing something pretty unique: Alan leads a three mile fun run leaving from the street in front of the store at 6:30 each week. They had about thirty runners the first week and have had ten to twenty since. All participants get a dollar off pints. This Thursday, December 18, at 6:00 PM, they have Green Man Pint Night with three beers on tap from Asheville’s Green Man Brewery and a free glass if you buy one of their pints.
They’ve got other ideas about where the business might grow, but for now they are enjoying the downtown vibe – which impacts their business model. For example, both Trio and Steamboat deliver food to the store and patrons are welcome to bring their own food. It’s a laid back gathering very fitting of the name of the market. And check out the bar the next time you’re there. It’s American Wormy Chesnut which Nathan got from his grandfather’s farm and it is very rare.
At $40 per person, early indications are the tours are very popular, with the first sold out tour coming last weekend. Perhaps not coincidentally it was the tour originating downtown that was the first to sell out. Leaving at 4:00 PM from the front of the downtown Casual Pint each Saturday, it appears that will be a popular tour and additional times may be added. There are seats available for this Saturday, but the 27th is already sold out.
The tour takes about three hours and Zack tries to incorporate information about the particular breweries and their beer, but also about the beer-making process as well as local history. Noting that Asheville already has brew tours, Zack knew the time was coming for Knoxville and he wanted to be the first in the market. Born in New York City, he’s lived in Knoxville since he was two-years-old, so it is very much his home and he enjoys show-casing it.
One final word: Alan asked me a series of questions about my taste with the intention of finding a beer I would like. I told him that was a failed forty year quest and there was simply no use. He produced a raspberry lambic that made me a liar. Simply stunning: a beer I can drink! So, drop in and say, “Hello,” grab a drink and consider going on a brew tour with Zack. I bet you’ll have a lot of fun if you do.