Episode 2: A Talk with Ryan Brooks from Brew Bus Knoxville
In this episode of Modecast our host Maxwell Mickey talks to Ryan Brooks from Brew Bus Knoxville. Enjoy a lighthearted talk about the transit needs of a truly unique service, the lively scene of Knoxville, and of course – beer!
Maxwell Mickey: Hello, everyone and welcome to the Modecast Podcast – a podcast powered by your smart mobility provider Modeshift. Thanks for joining us today, I’m your host, Max Mickey. In this podcast we talk about all things transit. Before we dive into today’s episode please subscribe and follow us on your preferred streaming platform. Now, let’s get started!
Today we have Ryan Brooks, and he is from, Brew Bus… Sorry, Knox Brew Bus. Correct?
Ryan Brooks: Brew Bus Knoxville.
MM: All right. Thank you, Ryan. I get that wrong 100% of the time we talk. And my apologies.
RB: That’s okay. That’s okay. You know, it’s kind of comedic at this point, and that’s fine by me.
MM: Yeah, I like that. You’re talking. You’re talking it up that way. I appreciate covering my shortcomings. So, Ryan Brooks – he’s the owner, operator, does-it-all? He’s a client of ours over here at Modeshift. We just recently partnered. He’s doing some pretty cool things, you know, in that space, you know, in the transportation side inside of Knoxville. So we’re excited to learn a little bit more about his background today. A little bit about the organization. But if you don’t mind, just kind of giving us a quick, you know, intro or letting us know how did you kind of come into transportation? I know you have a bit of a background, too, but how those things kind of meld together you know, for you?
RB: Absolutely. Well, you know, to be honest, this was kind of, it was kind of an abrupt thing for me. You know, I’m kind of a serial entrepreneur. I’ve had a few different businesses in my life, and I’ve worked in technology for quite some time as well. But I had a friend of mine that bought a party bus in Nashville, and was doing pretty well with it, and I was like, you know, that’s a great idea. We don’t have anything really like that in Knoxville. But then I got to thinking, you know, what we don’t have is really the party scene that Nashville has.
That might pose a bit of an issue. So I had to work around that a little bit. And I figured, you know what we do have – we do have breweries in Knoxville. We’ve got about 28 of them. We’ve grown from, let’s see here, about six or seven years ago, we had four microbreweries in Knoxville, and now we’re up to almost 30. So I mean, it’s a great scene here in Knoxville for craft brewing and just if you love beer and you like to have fun and you want to be safe doing it, we’re the people to call.
MM: Yeah, yeah, very cool. So tell us, tell us a little bit more about kind of how many stops like, how does it operate for Brew Bus Knoxville and when? When you’re going around, like, how many breweries do you go to? Does it change? Based on the day? How does it operate?
RB: So generally what we do is we’ll set a schedule for, you know, generally we run on weekends, Friday through Sunday or Thursday through Sunday, depending on you know, the interest for Thursdays, but we do set a schedule, generally monthly. We are kind of flexible with that. But we do like the last two months, we’ve averaged five or six breweries on just a standard loop for Knoxville and the way we try to it’s a couple different ways we go about picking those breweries. First of all, I mean, we want, you know, we want to be able to make sure that we have the best selection of breweries available.
So when we go to select, you know, a partner brewery a big thing is where are they located in relation to other partner breweries. Right. So if I can say if I can have a centrally located stop between three breweries and it’s one stop for me, great, that’s 3 places you potentially have access to, right? So, you know, in those five stops, generally you’ll have within walking distance between I would say, between nine and 12 different breweries within walking distance, you know, on the route. So, you know, that’s kind of the standard of what we try to do. And then, you know, secondly, we would we just, well, part of it’s just beer that I like.
MM: That’s a pretty cool way to design around. It’s probably very different than some of our listeners out there that are, you know, designing them around. You know, just where people are going in a city. So it’s pretty cool, because I just really like this brewery. They have great beer. Let’s send her out over there exactly.
RB: Exactly. Well, and that’s, you know, that’s been part of the fun of it, right? I mean, I hate to use this term, but perks with the job, right? Perks of being the owner – we get, we get to pick her out. So, you know, if I’m not driving one weekend, I’ve got a driver out and I want to go, you know, ride on and be a patron of my own business. Then you know, I want to enjoy it too. Yeah. I also make sure that you know, I know if I can go and ride as just a customer of mine and not be owner Ryan. Just be Ryan and I can go out. I can take my friends and have fun. I know that when you come out and you get over here from North Carolina and get on the bus that you’re gonna have a great time too. So, you know, that’s kind of the idea. We want to make sure that everybody has a good time is safe. And, you know, just have a great time. Enjoy some great beer.
MM: It’s a really cool idea. And you know, you mentioned just this explosion of breweries in the last six or seven years here, from I think he’s had four or five up into the close to 30. Now, has it just been an influx of people coming to Knoxville? Is it more entrepreneurs, like, kind of tell us about that scene and kind of how it’s grown to really create this need, you know, for the community.
RB: I would say the end to the short answer to that question is all the above. I mean, there are a ton of people relocating the East Tennessee, a ton of people, people coming from out west. Coming from the Midwest, we have. I mean, it’s just it’s amazing the amount of people that are relocating the East Tennessee for various reasons. I mean, we have we have, you know, just recently, they’ve announced a couple of new companies coming in town. We’ve got two new huge Amazon facilities that are being built currently, Smith and Wesson is coming into town. I mean, there’s a ton of stuff coming into town, but specifically, as far as the brewery scene goes, I mean, if you know anything about East Tennessee from 4-5-6 years ago, the brewery scene was really in Asheville, North Carolina.
So about two hours from here, and that’s really where it was. I think Knoxville being where it’s at, like right smack between Ashville and Nashville to the West. You know, we got a lot of people coming through going, you know, going to the Capital and going back to Asheville and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think ideally, what happened was people realize that hey, Knoxville is a great town. Nashville has people that, like local business, and people want to support local here, here in Knoxville and really, and truly, I think the entrepreneurial spirit here in Knoxville has, really, you know, taken people to say hey, I like craft beer. I’m from wherever. Knox was a great place. Let’s make it happen. And so you know, it’s really taken off. I mean, when you go around and meet the different people, you know, I think of Tony or Rick or Gally, Jim, they’re just people from all different walks of life that we have that are that are owners of breweries in and around downtown, and it’s really amazing to just, like, hear their stories and how they got to be where they are.
MM: Yeah, it’s really cool. And they drop some names there. But, for our listeners, do you have any? You have a couple of like favorite breweries, and it’s probably hard to pin that down or even a spotlight. Yeah, I know. I put the put the heat on you, or even maybe a couple of favorite, like beer specifically, or even types of beer that you like. Like, what do you kind of gravitate towards? I’m usually, as I said, I’m usually like a darker beer guy. So things that are aged in bourbon barrels, stouts, chocolate stuff. That’s usually kind of my go to, which is it’s great for craft beer, because usually someone’s got one or two of those kind of untapped at rotation.
RB: Absolutely. So you when you come in, we’re gonna go to the Next Level brewery, and you’re gonna try their beer named Doug. Okay. It’s just Doug.
MM: There’s a story behind the Doug?
RB: You know, I haven’t asked the question partially because I’m afraid to. But, you know, the guys at Next Level, they’re great. They actually probably do have one of my favorites. Personal favorite that I just I absolutely love it. And it is there. It’s called Big Boy Map. It’s an IPA. I’m an IPA or pale ale guy. I probably gradually gravitate more towards pale ale and just than a standard IPA. But you know, Next Level is a place that I frequent a lot. Coincidentally, it is on the route. I mean, why not? You know, it’s a little something for me. But, you know, Print Shop Brewing, they’ve got their hand crank IPA is really good. Else has a really good West Coast IPA.
I mean, there’s so much, so much to choose from. And I mean, it’s really hard. Like I said, I know, like my go to is a is a pale or an IPA. But like when I branch out and even just like standard lagers is like Next Level has a American lager called Volen Beer. I mean, it’s the volunteer state as we’ll have a beer, right? Yeah. I mean, it’s wonderful. So I mean, it’s just good beer. It’s quality brew. And, you know, no matter where you’re at, I mean, I know a lot of people are coming out with their holiday stuff right now, and it’s just no matter what you try in downtown, I mean, there’s something for everybody. From whether you like seltzer to, you know, a loaf of bread blended up into, into a beer. There’s something for everybody.
MM: We’d love to know kind of a couple things how do people, kind of know and use the service and hop on? Kind of what’s the best way for folks to kind of explore all the breweries, but also Brew Bus Knoxville specifically?
RB: Absolutely, absolutely. So the best way to explore all the breweries is to hop on the Brew Bus Knoxville and download the app that was so graciously made by Modeshift. And download that out, buy a ticket, you know, generate QR code, scan it out of the bus, and, you know, that does a couple things for us. I mean, a big thing that I was asked for when I was creating this business by the breweries and something that I wanted to provide them, in them allowing me to be part of their business is analytics into how many people I can bring to their business and how they benefit from what we’re doing.
And there’s a couple of reasons for that. Mainly is I want people to view Brew Bus Knoxville not as just me having fun. It is a legitimate business. It is something that we are trying to do to help the downtown brewery scene, the surrounding brewery scene and, make the streets safer in Knoxville because, I mean, hey, this happened. I kid you not. This happened not just two weeks ago, I was on a route driving and I saw somebody probably two o’clock in the afternoon at one of our partner breweries. And I was like, hey, how’s it going? Talking to him about riding the bus, you know, I saw him 2-3-4 hours later, and they’re like, oh, yeah, we’re getting ready to leave. And I’m like, okay, cool. I hope you uber at home or whatever. 30 minutes later, there’s another brewery that we’re stopping at and I’m like, okay, well, it’s probably not wise for you to have driven here, right? And so I mean, we’ve all been there, right? Don’t put yourself in that situation is, I guess, is what I’m getting at. So I don’t even know where I was headed with that, be safe, that that’s what we want. We want people to be safe. We want people to be able to, to do that. And by doing that, we want to bring value to the breweries in Knoxville.
We want people to not just have to choose to go to, Print Shop or just go to the Next Level or just go to High Wire or just go to wherever. I mean, we all have our favorite places that we like to go. Sure, but why just stop at one brewery when you can explore all of downtown in one day for a flat rate, and then we can show just as a business, we can show our partners you know how we’re bringing value to them through the app that Modeshift has provided for us. So, I know that’s a roundabout the answer there for you, but I tend to get off on tangents from time to time.
MM: No, it’s wonderful. I mean, it’s, you know I think about transportation kind of like an offensive alignment in football, where a lot of people just kind of expect it to do its job. And it doesn’t get a lot of the praise for how important that it is until something goes wrong. And then everyone notices. And so that’s kind of how I think about it, you know, in general, where just, you know, in the in the United States, most people have access to some form of transportation and getting around and so having options to keep us safe and having fun and, you know, kind of melding those things together. It’s pretty awesome, it seems like from the outside a pretty awesome thing to be working on. But I know you guys been doing really well. Tell us, do you have any kind of plans to expand, is it going to be more routes? You know new vehicles, things like that. What’s kind of the future looking like for you guys?
RB: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, without going into too much detail, we do have another bus that will be coming online hopefully, by the end of this month, hoping to have that on by New Year’s Eve. That’s the goal. That’s hopefully we can launch on that day. And then, you know, as far as growth goes, I mean, we we do adversaries monthly, we change our route. Just to make sure that, you know, we’re trying to, you know, be as friendly to the growing community as we can and try to make sure that we’re taking people to as many places as we can, but something that’s also gonna launch here, I’m gonna say January, maybe February (January is the hope), is we are hoping to launch kind of like, like an external just a shuttle route to, like, outlying areas that are outside of downtown, so people don’t have to either drive 30 minutes into downtown, do the brewery shuttle and then drive back or uber and pay an astronomical amount of money into downtown and then uber home.
So we’re hoping to have to routes – one in West Knoxville, one in Farragut that we do just a couple of pickups and drop offs and bring people into our primary downtown loop and then take them back at the end of the day so that they’re a lot closer to where they need to be. And, you know, save them a little bit of money and headache and then, you know, that’s probably the most. There’s probably the two closest expansions that we have. We are looking at another market for 2022. We’re actually looking at two other markets for 2022, I’ll keep you posted on those.
MM: Yeah, it’s exciting. It’s either for later.
RB: Just stay tuned on that one.
MM: Yeah, I like it. Wonderful. Appreciate you coming on the show for anyone listening. And if you’re in or around Knoxville, and you want to check out some awesome beer, have a nice clean, safe ride to get you where you need to go. Please check out Brew Bus Knoxville. Again, Ryan, thanks for being on, looking forward to hearing about more things, you know, coming out and about the growth and success. And it’s been fun to watch. So I can’t wait to hear more.
RB: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. And I hope we can do this again soon.
MM: Yeah. Thanks, Ryan. We’ll talk later.
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