Business is ‘brewing’ at alum Ryan Soroka’s 8th Wonder Brewery


Lucy Walker

8th Wonder has an outdoor space filled with H-Town memorabilia where guests can chat and enjoy local brews.

When alum Ryan Soroka (‘02) saw his soon-to-be brewery, the stadium-style roof immediately reminded him of the Astrodome—the first ever air-conditioned, entirely indoor stadium in the world. Drawing inspiration from aspects of Houston culture, Soroka created 8th Wonder Brewery.

The moment customers step inside 8th Wonder, located in the heart of East Downtown, their senses are overwhelmed by local culture. With walls featuring works of Texan artists and the wafting aromas from local food trucks parked outside, 8th Wonder is the epitome of a Houston establishment.

“Every brewery is going to try and find their niche, and our thing is that we’re very H-town hurrah,” Soroka said.

Soroka and his business partner Aaron Corsi created 8th Wonder in 2013 after recognizing that there were only two other breweries in Houston at the time. When 8th Wonder opened, it was the sixth brewery in the city. By creating the establishment, Soroka coupled his passion for brewing beer with his recognition of market opportunity.

While studying at Tulane University, Soroka changed his major four times, from Pre-Med to Political Science to Spanish and finally to Finance and Marketing. During his studies, he also began homebrewing beer as a hobby.

After college, Soroka experienced several career changes, working at a tax and accounting firm until he lost his job to the recession of 2008.

“It was kind of a blessing,” Soroka said. “I left corporate America and needed to get a job, so I started working at bars and restaurants.”

At bars and restaurants, Soroka enjoyed interacting with customers—something that he didn’t get to do much at his desk job as a financial analyst—and he started to see a future for himself in the hospitality industry.

Soroka soon got into the University of Houston’s Hospitality Management Program at the Hilton College and then was accepted into the MBA program at the Baur College.

Although Soroka experienced many changes in his studies and career, homebrewing beer remained a constant in his life. As he studied at UH, his hobby began to materialize into something bigger when he developed the idea to start a brewery in the future. At UH, Soroka also met his future partner Aaron Corsi, who was already an experienced homebrewer.

Soroka says that 8th Wonder is much more than just producing beverages —it involves product development, science and quality control.

 “It takes art to create a wonderful recipe. But it also takes science to replicate that at the highest quality,” Soroka said.

Soroka also says that, at 8th Wonder, “no day looks the same.”

“I don’t know what my day is going to be, for better or worse,” Soroka said. “That’s what I get some of my greatest joy from.”

Besides selling beers to customers directly through the brewery, 8th Wonder also sells their beers through major supermarkets, offering a standard eight options as well as a special set of seasonal drinks. Soroka says that the seasonal flavors keep customers excited about the business.

Another major aspect of 8th Wonder’s business is the taproom, where customers can choose from a variety of 15 to 20 brews. There, customers can also watch Houston sports games, listen to live music and grab a bite from a food truck while enjoying their beverages.

“It’s more of an experience. People can go anywhere and grab a beverage,” Soroka said. “We want people to feel at home.”

Soroka says that the hospitality industry is a challenging field. Nevertheless, Soroka has found success in this industry, and he partially attributes his success to his St. John’s education.

“St. John’s prepared me to work hard, to believe in myself and to align myself with people of similar interests who are driven and motivated,” Soroka said.

Soroka faced numerous challenges throughout the creation of his business, including the doubt of his peers and a pandemic. He captures this experience through one of 8th Wonder’s signature beers, Haterade. Its sour and salty flavor profile reminds him of the doubt and criticism he faced with his business idea.

“We brew Haterade as a tribute to the haters out there. Something sour and salty for their attitudes in our process here,” Soroka said.

Despite the obstacles, Soroka loves his job and takes pride in the business that he has created. 

“I’m so fortunate to wake up every day and come to a place that my partner, team and I have built here with our own hands,” Soroka said. “It’s as rewarding as it can be.”