By Dennis Yudt photos by Scott Duncan
The pub quiz – like the grilled cheese sandwich or a bicycle – is one of those simple yet perfect ideas: answering a wide variety of trivia questions with a group of friends over a pint or two in friendly competition with other teams for a prize of more beer. Kinda brilliant, isn’t it?
The first pub quiz that most Sacramentans knew about was introduced at The Streets of London in 1999 by the much-loved and much-missed quiz-master Simon MacMillan, who passed away in 2000. This weekly event, now called The Simon MacMillan Memorial Pub Quiz in his honor, was the model for all area trivia nights and is still wildly popular.
As an active participant in these weekly battles of wits, I enjoy the shared sense of community as glasses of goodness are lifted, brows become furrowed and whispered debates over the questions commence. The surrendering of sheets of paper with inked scrawl – a combination of quickly jotted-down questions to mull over and guesses crossed out and re-written – looks like graffiti to the untrained eye, but to the quiz-master (or mistress) this modern hieroglyph is quickly translated and tallied. The evening always culminates in the best part of this ritual – the reading of the answers – always to a mixed chorus of victorious ‘yeahs’ and the ‘awwws’ of missed opportunities and regret. But defeat is always quickly taken in stride as another pitcher is ordered and teams promise themselves a better showing in next week’s quiz while the winners partake with a hard-fought celebratory round on the house.
There are more than a dozen pub quizzes in the central Sacramento area and they are all, at the very least, a fun way to spend a couple hours knocking back a few tasty ales with your buddies. The trivia team visited a few watering holes slash repositories of knowledge and here’s how we did…or didn’t!…
As a bonus, I’ve included a couple questions from each place, so get those synapses fired up and see how you stack up! Answers can be found at the end of this article. And lastly, a big ‘thank you’ to my teammates, Skipper Chisholm and Cary Smith and auxiliary wing-man extraordinaire, Ed Hunter.
Where: Fox & Goose, 1001 ‘R’ Street
When: Tuesday, 7PM
Prizes: One prize of four drink tickets for top scoring team
The Crowd: 12-15 teams. Mellow and older. Many good, full beards. Burl wood pipes are optional.
Our Team: “Mr. & Mrs. Gordon Schaur” – Cary and I
The Basics: Four person teams, 32 questions over four rounds
How We Did: 11 out of 32 – 2nd place
The Lowdown: Quiz-mistress Morgan McCullough presides over the proceedings with microphone in tow and the hardest questions in town. Pretty laid-back with lots of chin-rubbing and hand gestures. There is a very good selection of beers from the UK on tap to accompany some of the best pub grub in town. Expect to spend two leisurely hours here – you’ll need all that time to suss out these Masters-level head-scratchers. Math questions? Really?
Questions: 1) What Japanese word translates into ‘squad leader’?
2) How many calories are in one pound of Jelly Bellies?
Where: The Shack, 5201 Folsom Blvd.
When: Wednesday, 6:30PM
Prizes: Three prizes. 1st prize – $20 off the team bill; 2nd prize – $10 off the team bill; 3rd prize – stuff from the quizmaster’s garage, usually beer-related.
The Crowd: 15-20 teams. Fun eclectic beer connoisseurs.
Our Team: “Bawls…Party of Two” – Cary, Skipper and I
The Basics: Four person teams, 20 questions over two rounds
How We Did: 16 out of 20 – 1st place, baby!
The Lowdown: Our team’s weekly ‘go-to’ spot. Quiz-master Dan Scott also heads up Sacramento Beer Week and when not lobbing a solid mix of current events, pop culture, geography and a Simpsons question, he offers his always solid reviews of the newest beers on tap. Plus, he’s a big MidMo supporter. A cheerful group of regulars show up each week to sit inside the newly-renovated dining area or around a fire pit outdoors. Without fail, always a good time.
Questions: 3) Who was the publisher of The North Star newspaper from 1847 to 1851?
4) What heavy metal guitarist was buried in a KISS coffin with an Eddie Van Halen guitar?
Where: De Vere’s Irish Pub, 1521 L Street
When: Monday, 7PM
Prizes: $25 for first place, $15 for second and $10 for third.
The Crowd: 40-50 teams. Loud and chatty. A good hoodies-to-suits ratio.
Our Team: “Mama’s Meat Sheets” – Cary, Skipper, Ed and I
The Basics: Six person teams, 30 questions over two rounds
How We Did: 17 out of 30
The Lowdown: The four of us sat at the bar that was being tended by a young man who bore a striking resemblance to David Foley from Kids In The Hall. Solid beer selection on tap with all the UK faves sharing space with the microbrews. We all agreed that we would happily replace our blood with the amazing Gorgonzola gravy that came with our fries. Solid questions – not so hard that hands are thrown up in despair but it ain’t no cakewalk, either. This was the most crowded pub quiz we’d attended with probably 200 people crowding every available seat – prepare to come at least an hour early to snag a good table. Chris Findley is an amiable quizmaster with a good sense of humor and a strong voice that rises above the din of the crowd. Will definitely be going back for more.
Questions: 5) What Alfred Hitchcock movie was filmed in Bodega Bay?
6) Adenine, guanine and thymine are three out of the four bases in a DNA double helix structure. What is the fourth one?
Where: Streets of London, 2200 Lake Washington Blvd., West Sacramento
When: Wednesday, 8:30PM
Prizes: $30 Streets gift card for first place, $20 Streets gift card for second and a gag gift for third.
The Crowd: 15-20 teams. Everyone looked like they were from West Sacramento.
Our Team: “Chill Haze” – Skipper and I
The Basics: Six person teams, 30 questions over three rounds
How We Did: 24 out of 30 – third place!
The Lowdown: Decided that the West Sacramento branch of Streets of London would be less crowded than the Midtown location (at 1804 J Street) for their wildly popular pub quiz and it was a good decision. Plus there was a guy there that looked exactly like if William Vollman ate someone his own size. But even this Streets off the beaten path filled up to near capacity as trivia time beckoned. Ken Koch was a real hoot and had this down to a fine art. Second round is a handout with pictures to identify and the questions included a couple of sports-themed ones, which is always our teams’ Achilles heel. Despite our lack of UK soccer knowledge, we placed third and received the complete Robin of Sherwood DVD box set, which we will never watch.
Questions: 7) Daniel Day-Lewis won Academy Awards for what two movies?
8 ) Which Bronte sister wrote Wuthering Heights?
And, I didn’t’ have room for these two in the print edition of the article, but here’s my take on the Depot’s and Hoppy’s quizzes….
Where: The Depot, 2001 ‘K’ Street
When: Wednesday, 9PM
Prizes: An assortment from various sponsors. Lots of booze.
The Crowd: 20-30 teams. In one word – “fabulous!” of course. Lots of funny sarcasm-laced yelling. The liquor flowed like the Amazon.
Our Team: “Raquel Felch” – Cary, Skipper and special guest stars Ted Plank and Sue Nice-Everett
The Basics: Six person teams, 42 questions over six rounds
How We Did: 31 out of 42 – didn’t place. Not even close.
The Lowdown: Christopher Scott is the man behind the most elaborate and high-tech trivia night in town. Video screens, full color handouts, movie clips – equal parts snark-fest, brain-teasers and sensory overload. Six themed rounds – this time included ‘Year in Review’, ‘Superheros’, ‘Logos’, ‘Mystery Audio’, ‘Films’ and ‘Reversograms’, in which teams are given two clues about two words and then reversed spelled for the answer. Or something like that. Did I mention the copious amounts of booze involved? And as one would expect from a divey gay bar, the teams had the best names ever – ‘Scruff Over Muff’, ‘Butt Sluts and Meat Tulips’, ‘Apoca-lez 2012’, ‘Hot Latino Monkeys’, and my personal favorite “Three Guys and My Vagina’. A flippin’ great night out, so I’m told. We’ll be back.
Where: Hoppy Brewing Company, 6300 Folsom Blvd.
When: Tuesday, 10PM
Prizes: One prize of a $20 gift card for top scoring team
The Crowd: 10-12 teams. 96% – CSUS sophomores that all just turned 21; 2% – Old and wise mountain men; 2% – us.
Our Team: “Moose Knuckles” – Cary, Skipper and I
The Basics: Three person teams, 20 questions over two rounds.
How We Did: 15 out of 20 – 2nd place
The Lowdown: I’m going to be completely up-front. This was our least favorite trivia night of all the places reviewed. Don’t get me wrong – we had a good time –but the 10PM starting time, lack of any truly hoppy suds on tap and questions that were like the softballs they underhand lob on ‘Celebrity Jeopardy’ left us underwhelmed. On the plus side, Danielle, the woman with the mic, was equal parts spunk and sass and she and the rest of the crowd were having a pretty good time. All questions appear on TV screens with the first ten being multiple choice and seemed to be geared more towards the college crowd that were there en masse. We would recommend Hoppy’s trivia night for the novice, the morbidly curious or people who want to feel really, really smart.
3) Frederick Douglas
4) Dimebag Darrell
5) The Birds
7) My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood
8 ) Emily