8th Wonder Brewery, the latest addition to EaDo's booming landscape, is, for the moment, still spacious.
On my morning visit, all that stood in the soon-to-be-converted warehouse (it used to belong to a Chinese fish distributor, I'm told; whether the distributor or the fish were Chinese is unclear) were a futon, a make-shift coffee table, a half-barrel pilot system and a 1957 Chevy pickup truck.
The truck runs, and it belongs to Eatsie Boys and 8th Wonder co-founder Alex Vassilakidis, who prefers to measure its fuel economy in dollars-per-day rather than miles-per-gallon. Either way, it's steep.
The scene makes an appropriate backdrop for this meeting with four young entrepreneurs, whose hard work is evidenced by their prior successes and whose downtime is evidenced by strange chalk doodlings on the walls.
The brewery space will be utilized as a working lab for Corsi's University of Houston students, with the ultimate goal of developing a degree program in brewing — the only one of its kind in Texas.
Not many people know that the brewery idea, a collaboration between Ryan Soroka, Matt Marcus and Vassilakidis, who run Eatsie Boys, and new brewmaster Aaron Corsi, actually predates the popular food truck.
Soroka developed a brewpub business plan years ago while working toward his master's degree at the University of Houston's Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. The food truck, the guys say, was the result of some kind of kismet.
When a little research made the traditional brewpub idea look less attractive, Soroka modified the plan to include a sort of two-part "non-traditional brewpub," as he terms it.
"We have a food line and we have a beverage line," he says, referencing Eatsie Boys' two trucks (an ice cream truck is scheduled to hit the streets shortly) and the new brewery's offerings. He imagines 8WB's EaDo location — which is a stone's throw from Minute Maid and Toyota Center and still closer to the construction site of the new Dynamo Stadium — as a tailgating mecca where the trucks can park and sports fans can exchange game-day ticket stubs for discounted tours.
Says Vassilakidis, "We're definitely making this a destination."
The digs are still rough, but the group anticipates completing installation of their larger 15 or 20 barrel-capacity brewing system within the next 12 to 16 weeks. Vassilakidis says they target opening sometime in the first quarter of next year.
Corsi, a new addition to the group and the only non Houston-native, owned a small restaurant in Denmark near Carlsberg Brewery, which is where he first started tinkering with home brewing. "It was like a sickness after that," Corsi says.
He's tweaking several brews at the moment. We tried an alternative Amber Ale, which was a touch hoppy for my taste, and a strong, more approachable American Pale Ale — a clear favorite. Corsi is undecided about whether to debut with an APA or an IPA, and the brewery's light option is also TBD. It's between a blonde ale, a saison and a wheat offering, in that preferential order.
The guys also anticipate doing seasonal beers, ales (both real and Texas-defined), one-offs and limited releases. "We'll have beers that can be drank every day, but I don't want to say we're making everyday beer," Soroka says.
Although friends and family are the current arbiters of taste, the brewery is soon to have a built-in team of tasters thanks to a new partnership with the University of Houston.
Education is important to the group — all four men have attained master's degrees — so scientific tastings and courses in beer production are a fitting second use for the space.
Corsi, who teaches at the college, will be utilizing the brewery space as a working lab for his students with the ultimate goal of developing a degree program in brewing — the only one of its kind in Texas. The 8WB crew is currently in talks with university officials to hammer out details, but Hilton College is on board, and Soroka says several professors at the Bauer College of Business are also supportive.
The group has its share of UH connections; both Soroka and Corsi are graduates of the hospitality management master's program, and Corsi now serves on the faculty. Education is important to the group — all four men have attained master's degrees, and Corsi is working toward his PhD — so scientific tastings and courses in beer production are a fitting second use for the space.
8WB plans to self-distribute to start, but hopes to establish enough demand that they'll need assistance getting the product out. Recipes will be re-tweaked with the installation of the big brewing system, so be on the look-out for 8WB brews to start hitting Houston early next year. In the meantime, stay up-to-date via 8WB's Facebook and Twitter pages — and keep cool with the Eatsie Boys' newest addition, Inspired Ice Creams and Other Sweet Nothings ice cream truck.