Knox Brew Tours To Make Its Last Run This Fall

Knox Brew Hub and Knox Brew Tours, Knoxville, August 2022
The Brew Bus, Knox Brew Tours, Knoxville, December 2014

It’s been a long and successful run. When I first wrote about Knox Brew Tours and interviewed a very young Zack Roskop, the year was 2014. We met inside Casual Pint and I took a photograph outside beside his bus. He was very young and there weren’t that many breweries. Could it work? I had my doubts, but wished him the best. Clearly, I didn’t know Zack Roskop.

I’ve gotten to know him better and respect him greatly over the years as Knox Brew Tours grew into a multi-bus affair, breweries proliferated in the city, and Zack took a lead role in the local Brewer’s Association. Fast forward to 2024 and he’s now the owner of the business at the location where we first met, Knox Brew Hub, which he opened in 2020. In 2023 he opened Fred Beans and Rice inside the bar offering Cajun inspired food. Along the way he started a successful podcast, Knox Brew Stories, and garnered recognition from Garden and GunWine Enthusiast, and Sports Illustrated.

Now, he’s ready to step back a bit. A lot has changed over the last ten years, including his marriage to his lovely wife Amy. Surveying everything he has going and considering things he’d like to do in the future, he’s concluded that Knox Brew Tours has had its run. The final tour will be late Summer or early fall and will coincide with the 2,000th tour. Quite an accomplishment. I met with him to learn more about what went into the decision.

He’s thinking his future direction lies more with food and he’s exploring possibilities. While he’ll have more to say about that in the future, he’s considering a food truck and extended catering options for starters. “People need to eat, they’ll always need to eat, and craft beer is kind of on the decline . . . People are really enjoying our food. I’m having a lot of fun making it.”

Zack and Amy Roskop, Fred Beans and Rice, 2023

He also noted the trend among younger people (his future customers) toward sobriety. “Right now in all of American recorded history, twenty-one to twenty-five year olds are consuming the least amount of alcohol. They are not my target demographic right now, but they are three or four years from now.” He also believes that COVID-19 broke habits that impacted the businesses. “One of those habits is the post-work happy hour.” Rather than joining friends after work for a drink, he senses more people either go home directly or simply work from home.”

With the change in habits and trends, “All of those things are causing me to think ‘I’ve been doing Knox Brew Tours for ten years. What do my next ten years look like?’ I think I want to lean into food . . . It’s time for a shift.”

Which brings us back to the decision regarding Knox Brew Tours. “Ace, who manages it, is an absolute rock star. We’ve been chatting and there’s something poetic about the fact that we are just over 60 tours away from running our 2,000th brew tour. This October will be our tenth anniversary and I just think the headline is ’10 years, 2,000 tours, mission accomplished.’ When I started Knox Brew Tours our goal was to help people discover the beer that was being brewed in our city and I don’t think people need help with that, anymore . . . today when we give a tour, people pretty much know it all.” He said Ace is considering some exciting plans of her own.

The business has also seen a decline. “In January and February of 2020 we were averaging eight tours a weekend and now we’re down to about eight tours a month.” He’s cut back to one vehicle once more.” He thinks they’ve mirrored general trends in the industry. At the same time, insurance costs have increased by “15 to 30% every single year.” This comes despite never having filed a claim. “To put that into perspective, to operate one vehicle giving guided brewery tours, that insurance is four times my total liability insurance at Knox Brew Hub.”

Knox Brew Hub and Knox Brew Tours, Knoxville, August 2022

When the tours end, the current bus (“Harvey”) will be converted for use in catering and it will be able to pull a food cart. The other buses are now being used elsewhere, with the largest bus (“Bernie”) being converted for overnight camping at the Drop Inn campground. The original bus (in the photo at the top) was named “Cathy” after an aunt who had recently died. It has been relocated to the country and is being converted into a tiny home for camping for friends and family. The plaque honoring his aunt remains.

“It’s been the best ten years of my life and it’s changed my life. I’ll remember it forever.” He says the spirit of the tours will survive and expects new Knoxville-centered experiences to emerge. He sees this announcement as what he hopes will be a series of great tours for the summer “living it up and loving brew tours.” He said there will be tours with various themes, like tacos, donuts, or distilleries. He said he wants the summer to be “like the last day of summer camp . . . to celebrate Knoxville beer and Knox Brew Tours and to end on a high note.”

As we wrapped up, Zack said, “I’m not slowing down, I’m just shifting gears.” My experience with Zack over the last ten years leaves no doubt of that fact.