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Houston, Texas is the most diverse city in the United States, and in this episode with 8th Wonder Brewery, we had our most diverse flight of beers. Coincidence? Ryan Soroka – President, Hype Man, “Entrebrewneur,” & Co-Founder at 8th Wonder – takes us through 9 different brews that all pay homage to Houston’s vibrant cultural heritage. Expand your mind beyond NASA and cowboys, and get ready for an episode covering Cajun crawfish boils, low-rider car culture, Chinatown, Houston sports, and Vietnamese coffee, just to name a few. We even learn about Ryan’s career and entry into the Houston food & beverage arena that led up to the brewery and associated food truck (Eatsie Boys). Oh, and BBQ…you can’t go to Houston and not talk about BBQ!
8th Wonder Brewery – Houston, TX
Named after the Houston Astrodome (the first domed stadium was once referred to as the “8th Wonder of the World”), 8th Wonder Brewery pays homage to Houston sports history, while excellent beer on the city’s now-hoppin’ EaDo neighborhood. Side-note: that was absolutely a beer pun. In addition to their tap room, they also have a 1-acre beer garden out back (which is basically the size of 1-city block!). Located stones-throw from all of the downtown sporting venues, 8th Wonder Brewery is a perfect pregame destination.
- We kicked off with 8th Wonder’s flagship “Dome Faux’m” cream ale, and got a crash course in that style of beer. In general, kolsch and cream ale is about as close to a lager as an ale will get.
- 8th Wonder has been operating for 6 years and in their current location for 4. They brewed 10,000 barrels of beer in 2016, and are on pace for 15,000 in 2017.
- Located on the east side of downtown (EaDo), 8th Wonder is within walking distance of the basketball arena, baseball stadium, and soccer park, homes to the Houston Rockets, Astros, and Dynamo respectively.
- The term “8th Wonder” refers to the Houston Astrodome: the first domed (and air-conditioned) stadium in sports.
- The Houston beer scene has been on-the-rise, and 8th Wonder was the 6th brewery to enter the market when they opened in 2013, and in the past 4 years that’s increased to 40. EaDo is now one of Houston’s premier brewery neighborhoods.
- Ryan wrote the original business plan for 8th Wonder Brewery while he was at graduate school at the University of Houston, and the plan and his great team evolved from there to the combination brewery & food truck (Eatsie Boys) he and his business partners run today.
- While Ryan was getting his Finance & Marketing degree at Tulane University in New Orleans, all of his friends went to study abroad junior year, which motivated him to start homebrewing as a slightly more domestic hobby…
- Looking to experience Houston in a whole new way? Take a tip from Ryan and check out Chinatown in West Houston, and don’t forget to try the Vietnamese-style crawfish.
- It’s hard to describe how massive 8th Wonder’s backyard beer garden is, but their 1 acre lot is basically the size of a city block. It is Texas-sized to say the least. They host live music (no cover) every Friday, and touring acts twice a year.
- There are too many great restaurants to name in the Houston area (see 2 sections below this for a long list that Ryan and I came up with, which is just barely scratching the surface), but we’ll give a couple additional BBQ shoutouts to The Pit Room, Gatlin’s, Corkscrew, and Pappa Charlies BBQ.
- The Houston Astros may or may not win the World Series this year…seems like a vague, ambiguous comment, but they’ve been looking good all season!
Drinks of the Show:
- Dome Faux’m – A tribute to the light, foamy beers you used to be able to find at the Astrodome, this cream ale is a traditional pre-prohibition style beer brewed with corn. It started off as a seasonal, but is now brewed year round in collaboration with Moon Tower Inn, a nearby brewpub and ice house.
- Weisstheimer – A traditional German-style hefewiesen. Contains banana and clove flavors imparted by the yeast. Named after Westheimer Road, one of Houston’s major thoroughfares.
- Cougar Paw (Nitro) – A red ale that’s more on the mild side, but more importantly, a tribute to the University of Houston Cougars (where Ryan is an alum).
- Rocket Fuel – A Vietnamese coffee porter, and it’s designed to mimic a “ca phe sua da” (Vietnamese iced coffee) and brewed in collaboration with local coffee roaster Greenway Coffee. Not for the lactose intolerant…
- Haterade – 8th Wonder’s take on a gose (a traditional German sour wheat beer). It’s sour and salted, brewed with a bit of coriander as well. Ryan appropriately describes it as “Gatorade meets margarita,” so plan on pounding a few of these to cool off after a run in the hot, humid Houston weather.
- Brewston – Their seasonal pale ale. When this beer was created, they didn’t have hop contracts in place, which means the beer is brewed annually with a rotating hop lineup.
- L.A.B. IPA – S.L.A.B. stands for “Slow, Loud, And Bangin’” and pays homage to low-rider car culture in Houston. In the case of this IPA though, it stands for “Smooth, Light, And Bright” and serves as an experimental IPA that uses experimental hops that haven’t been named or released yet.
- Hopston – A Texas IPA, with a prominent malt backbone that drinks like an English IPA.
- IP8 – One of 8th Wonder’s seasonal brews and a big, double IPA. Brewed with a large amount of Citra and Cascade hops, it’s also double dry-hopped.
Ryan’s Favorite Bars & Breweries in the Houston:
- Moon Tower Inn – A brewpub and ice house also located on Houston’s east side, serving some of the best gourmet hot dogs in town. No-frills, Yes-beers, Definitely-awesome (I just made that up…)
- Axelrad Beer Garden – Another large outdoor spot with a big beer selection and a hammock farm.
- Flying Saucer – If you’ve ever lived in or visited The South, chances are you’ve been to a Flying Saucer Beer Emporium. Ryan describes it as the “O.G. of the Houston craft beer scene” which is definitely true (the beer chain started in Dallas-Ft. Worth in 1995). I was definitely a card-carrying member of this place when I lived in Houston…
- Little Woodrow’s – Although Ryan was referring to the nearby EaDo location, there are a handful of these ice houses around town.
- Neil’s Bahr – Also down the road from 8th Wonder, this is a gamer-themed bar that even stocks comic books as well.
- Huynh Restaurant – A modest BOYB Vietnamese joint. Grab some beer from 8th Wonder and head on down the street!
- Café TH – A nearby Vietnamese sandwich shop.
- Brothers Taco House – Breakfast & lunch tacos served on homemade tortillas.
- The Original Ninfa’s On Navigation – I absolutely loved this place when I lived in Houston. There are few finer things on the east side (or in the world) than housemade tortillas, succulent carnitas, and a margarita/Corona at this Tex-Mex joint that’s been in operation since 1973.
- Hay Merchant – A craft beer bar in the heart of the Montrose neighborhood.
- Rudyard’s Pub – A great British pub tucked away in the quieter part of Montrose, but what’s most notable are their monthly beer pairing dinners: a guest chef, a guest brewery, and 5 excellent courses paired with beer. One of my favorite culinary events in Houston on the last Thursday of every month.
Visit 8th Wonder Brewery:
8th Wonder Brewery is located at 2202 Dallas St, Houston, TX 77003. Taproom hours are Monday through Saturday 11am-10pm, and Sundays 11am-6pm.
“Leche Loco” by Purple. Check them out on their Facebook page.
Great episode! I really enjoyed hearing Ryan’s story on his path to becoming a business owner. Similar to Ryan, I am transitioning from a corporate career to food & beverage space with a business school stopover, so his story was relatable and gave me the psychological kick-in-the-ass to keep pressing on with a “non-traditional” career path (air fist bump to Ryan).
I also appreciate people who have a lot of hometown pride and do their part to carry the flag for their city. Ryan is a great Houston “patriot” as Chris so finely put it. Thanks for the entertainment fellas!