We usually wait until it gets fairly cool to make the trek up to Plantersville for the Texas Renaissance Festival, but this year we uncharacteristically went the second weekend it was open. Around 3 p.m. it was 90 degrees and we went in search of a cool, shaded spot to grab a cold beer, rest our legs and people watch. We stumbled upon a little spot nestled next to the rowdy, kind of expensive yet always packed King's Feast attraction -- an all-you-can-eat and drink 6 course meal with a two-hour variety show combo.
This respite, Wonky Wally Pub, was completely empty and had the A/C on high blast so we snagged two stools at the...umm...barrel and got to talkin' with genial pirate bartender Cap'n Biff, who had tiny roses dangling from his beard and moustache. In an accent that fluctuated between sort-of Irish and native Texan, he told us a little about how the festival has changed over the years, why he keeps coming back and a tale about the origins of porter involving dinner parties for 200 held in copper vats and a beer tsunami that killed 8 (fact).
How long have you been tending bar? Oh, lordy. That's a lot of years; I'm afraid I'd give away my age if I told you that. Let's just say a very, very long time.
How would you describe your bar's aesthetic? It's very rustic, like a section of an old ship's hull.
How would you describe your crowd? Varied...quite eclectic. There are the people who are just plain vanilla and then there are those who are the wildest, most barbaric sorts you could imagine.
How long have you been working at the Renaissance Festival? 21 years.
What has kept you coming back? The people. The people you meet are always new and exciting and there are so many of them. They make me feel younger and in exchange, I try to make them feel special when they walk up to my bar. I try to remember as many of them as I can, to remember what they're drinking, and they come back. I have a huge group of regulars and a lot of them come just to see me, which I find surprising, salty as I am. Every year they can count on me to be here. They'll have to carry me out feet first.
Could you tell me a little about the beer selection? Well, we don't carry Budweiser. I try to offer something to educate people's palates. I'm well educated when it comes to beer. I have a sophisticated palate. I try to find a small collection that runs from light to dark -- things people wouldn't normally find, something other than the American versions of beer.
If you like something light, I have a beer that I would suggest that has more taste, is more well rounded, and has more character than a beer made with rice, like Viru, an Estonian beer. For darker beers, the Sam Smith brewery has some of the finest brews. The Sam Smith Imperial Stout is one of the best stouts I've ever tasted, far better than Guinness. (Note: Other options include Lindemans lambics, Piraat Ale, Original Sin hard cider and The Sixth Glass, Boulevard's 10.5 percent ABV quadruple ale.)
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If you're heading to the Texas Renaissance Festival this year, be sure to stop by the Wonky Wally Pub to get a really good beer from pirate gentleman Cap'n Biff. Located at Shoppe #302A, it's the newest pub in New Market Village.