See more photos from the 8th Wonder Brewery in our slideshow.
Aaron Corsi and Ryan Soroka first met at the University of Houston as beer-obsessed undergrads, where the pair quickly formed an underground brewing club. As graduates, the two are more driven to brew than ever: Corsi is a now professor at his alma mater, lecturing on brewing science, viticulture, enology and distillation science, while Soroka and his team at the Eatsie Boys food truck -- Matt Marcus and Alex Vassilakidis -- have founded a brewery.
Naturally, the Eatsie Boys asked Corsi to be their brewmaster.
Corsi -- who is currently becoming a master brewer by the International Brewers' Guild while he pursues his Ph.D. in Molecular and Environmental Plant Science at Texas A&M -- talks excitedly about the beers that he and the Eatsie Boys team are working on at the 8th Wonder Brewery, which is on track to open this fall.
"We want to reinvent some styles and bring back some classic styles," he says, while sitting in thoughtful repose in an otherwise messy office filled with boisterous interns, a foosball table and bags of hot bagels that Marcus brought in for breakfast. "Beers that haven't been seen since Prohibition."
He's talking about focusing on such old styles as German altbier, an old-world style (its very name means "old beer" in German) in 8th Wonder's Alternate Universe -- one of the three flagship beers that the team hopes to produce as its initial offerings. An extra pale ale called Hopston and a "light, easy-drinking, year-round" beer called the Intellectuale round out the trio of first-run 8th Wonder beers.
But they don't plan on releasing those first.
Instead, says Soroka, Corsi convinced them to wait until the recipes are perfected and the brewery is completely up and running.
"We don't want to disappoint people," Soroka says, if the recipes change between batches and first-timers have already gotten used to the hops in the Hopston or the malt in the Alternate Universe. Instead, the plan is to release a series of one-off beers -- Experiment8ns, in the slang of the brewery -- in firkins, containers smaller than kegs that hold nine imperial gallons (roughly 72 pints of beer).
Meanwhile, the crew is simply trying to navigate the logistics of getting their East End brewery up and running. Soroka notes that they signed a lease for the building at the corner of Dallas and Hutchins only a few months before the Dynamo announced that a stadium for the soccer team would be built a couple of blocks away.
"On game days," says Marcus, "every one of these lots around us is full." They plan to take advantage of this luck by hosting tailgating parties once the brewery is finally open, although not just for the Dynamo. Minute Maid Park isn't too far from here either, and once the new light rail line is finished it will be equally easy to ride from Reliant Park to their front door.
They plan to host a blow-out block party this fall when the brewery is finished, inviting other food trucks ("It's a huggy industry," Soroka laughingly notes about the friendly, ultra-cooperative food truck scene in Houston) and hosting the neighborhood in an effort to bring more positive attention to the rapidly growing "EaDo" area. In the future, Marcus says, they even want to host a "Taste of EaDo" night to highlight the many terrific restaurants in the area -- Cafe TH, Calliope's Po-Boys, Brothers Taco House, Huynh and Cork Soakers among them.
What needs to be done between now and then is to finish out the plumbing in the big, open space with vaulted barrel ceilings -- ceilings that inspired Soroka to call the brewery 8th Wonder after the Astrodome's own curved roof -- as well as to install glycol lines for the huge stainless steel tanks, which can produce 40 barrels of beer at a time. A converted shipping container will hold the finished kegs in cold storage, while a bar and merchandise area will eventually be built next to the office, which -- for now -- is the only air-conditioned part of the brewery.
Corsi estimates the brewery's capacity on tailgating days and other brewery events will be about 200 people when all is said and done. There will, of course, be food on-hand at the brewery from the Eatsie Boys truck, but Soroka and Marcus plan to invite others to play along too.
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At the moment, the only beer for sale from 8th Wonder is its root beer, which is found at Local Foods -- and which they're already brewing quite a bit of. It's all a lot to take on, especially when the Eatsie Boys are also hard at work opening a cafe in the old Kraftsmen space on Montrose. But they're nothing if not determined and ambitious.
"A year from now, we hope to double our brewing capacity," says an eager Soroka. Then, with a quick laugh, he corrects himself: "Scratch that. In a year, we hope to be brewing. Period."