Houston’s craft beer scene is growing. Sure, the city in general is “blossoming,” as evidenced by the rush hour commutes, which now feature bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way into the ‘burbs. But with great population growth comes great craft beer—partially to assuage that post-work urban sprawl commute. Riding the tail end of the second wave craft beer boom, 8th Wonder is the latest craft brewery in H-Town to join the melting pot of brew culture.
Conceptually conceived in 2010, 8th Wonder was founded by Aaron Corsi and Ryan Soroka, two University of Houston grad students, who, like most people in their university days, enjoyed cracking open a few cold ones after lectures. Unlike the rest of us, though, these guys got their degrees in beer/alcohol science (8th Wonder actually started as Soroka’s thesis project!). The pair brought Alex Vassilakidis on board to handle the brewery’s finances and keep the duo’s heads from floating off with the NASA space shuttles, and for the past two years and four months, the trio has been churning out Texas-worthy beers for Houston.
”[The name] was homage to the Astrodome,” Corsi admitted. “But also ‘8th Wonder’ is always that next best thing coming.” Given the creative growth and sheer volume that these guys have accomplished since the brewery’s beginning, they’re earning that reputation as “the next best thing.”
8th Wonder began by brewing in accord with traditional styles, albeit with a few twists—Alternate Universe, the old-style German Altbier; Intellectuale, a Golden-Blonde-Witbier hybrid; and Hopston; a “Texas IPA”. Since then, their love of experimentation as well as collaboration with local business has further strengthened their roster of year-rounders that you’ll see at several local bars, and more recently, sports stadiums such as the Houston Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium.
“We’re Houston guys,” Corsi explained to me one Saturday in the brew room while brewing a fresh batch. “We love the town we live in.” Stepping into the taproom of 8th Wonder Brewery in the East Downtown Third Ward neighborhood, you definitely get the vibe: 8th Wonder renditions of vintage Astros and Rockets logos adorn the ceiling and walls, and there are original Astrodome stadium seats bordering the tables, Deloreaning you back to the golden days of Clutch City!
Being from H-Town where it’s essentially summertime nine months of the year and a car is required for going from point A to any point B, it’s almost necessitated that their brews veer towards sessionable. So, with almost every 8th Wonder beer, you can enjoy at least one pint glass and have more room, both belly wise and motor skill wise, for at least one more. This doesn’t mean they don’t have room to play around with complex and massive flavors though. Their most-raved brew—the Rocket Fuel Vietnamese Porter—tastes just like its locally favored namesake. This tasty brew is a collaboration with local Greenway Coffee Company. And their seasonal/experimental Imagin8ion Series lets them mess around with wackier flavors and the occasional 8%-er. To give you an idea of wacky, they recently released the French Toast Breakfast beer (brewed with maple syrup, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla beans). And it’s quite possibly the perfect beverage of choice for Brunch.
Between further hopeful contract deals with the Rockets, Astros, and Texans stadiums, the introduction of a canning line later this summer, and orders for more tanks that will bump up the production from 2015’s projected 4500 barrels to a projected 10,000 in 2016, it’s safe to say that things can only go up from here for 8th Wonder. But, the guys have to take care of their own—first Houston, then the rest of Texas, and then eventually the world.
So, for now, you might have to schedule a few trips around the Republic of Texas before you can sample 8th Wonder’s brews elsewhere. But, in a city where everything under the sun is booming, it might just be the next big thing. And don’t forget, everything is bigger in Texas.