A new Japanese-inspired brewery from brewer and beer aficionado Haidar Hachem and his wife, local marketing guru Marilyn Orozco, is making beer inside Unbranded Brewing Co. in Hialeah.
The duo is the couple behind Shōjō Beer Co., named for the yokai spirit in Japanese folklore that appears as a hairy, monkey-like humanoid that is always drunk and happy.
According to Hachem, Shōjō was born from the pandemic — but to hear his story you can’t help but call it fate.
Hachem, who has written for New Times in the past, wasn’t always a craft beer fanatic. During his college days, he drank Busch or Bud Light. “Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was my first craft beer,” he says. “After that, I was hooked and wanted to try anything and everything.”
As a novice craft beer enthusiast, Hachem would frequent his local Yard House and World of Beer, trying a variety of brews. Those experiences later introduced him to South Florida’s craft beer scene. Then, in 2012, he began home brewing.
“I did mess around with a few styles, and definitely did highly hopped lagers before it was cool,” said Hachem, who is now a brewer at Lincoln's Beard in addition to launching his own brewery brand. “I was just using your basic Mr. Beer plastic fermenter kit, and would brew about once a month.”
The move to become a professional brewer, however, was pure impulse — an aspect of Hachem's personality that has propelled him to where he is today.
It began with his March 2019 marriage to Orozco, whom he met during a marathon, further inspiring his love for the local craft scene. Six months later, he left a career in civil engineering on impulse to brew for John Falco’s Strange Beast Beer. And a few months after that, he became a full-time brewer at Lincoln’s Beard Brewery. Even Shōjō was an impulsive decision, as he and Orozco used the pandemic-induced downtime to bring their project to life, allowing them to hasten the timeline for their new venture.
Today, Hachem stands as Shōjō's head brewer, while Orozco oversees the brewery’s social media, marketing, branding, merchandise design, and photography. Most of the tasks are undertaken collaboratively — from what styles to brew to beer names and label design — and Hachem is quick to credit his wife’s creative input.
Shōjō is functioning as a so-called gypsy brewery, crafting beers via Unbranded Brewing’s 30-barrel brew house and selling them inside the brewery’s Hialeah taproom. Hachem and Orozco are currently looking to secure their own production facility, with a taproom to follow. The mission, Hachem says, is to infuse their divergent heritage and interests into every beer they create, offering nods to Japanese, Lebanese, and/or Nicaraguan cultures.
That’s especially true of their first release, "Kanpai," a ten-barrel batch of 5.4 percent alcohol rice lager fermented with sake yeast.
This week, Shōjō will also unveil its second beer, the first in its "Kitsune" sour series, a 5 percent alcohol Asian-inspired fruited sour ale with watermelon, dragonfruit, and yuzu. The release will take place at Unbranded Brewing at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 17, and a portion of proceeds will be donated to Beer Kulture & Equality Now, a nonprofit organization working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in brewing, as well as Equality Now, a nonprofit that works to protect and promote women’s rights.
While plans are to release an IPA and a lager in the near future, moving forward Hachem says there'll be an emphasis on experimentation, creating styles of beer that are obscure or unique.
“I also want to experiment with styles that you don’t see too much of, like a gruit — an ale brewed without hops," Hachem says. “But really, we want the beers to reflect us in every way possible. We want our brand to tell the story of both the growth of the brewery and our lives.”
Shōjō Beer Co. At Unbranded Brewing Co., 1395 E. 11th Ave., Hialeah; 786-332-3097; shojo-beer-company.business.site.