It used to be that being the smartest kid in class would get you a gold star. As an adult, it can get you gift cards or even free beer.
Across the Treasure Valley, nearly every night of the week, there is a bustling pub quiz scene. Miss a few questions and your parents won’t be mad. Do well, and not only do you feel like a genius, but you get prizes and bragging rights.
Depending on your taste, there is a trivia night to suit you, with emcees making it a far more lively affair. All regular, weekly quizzes are free to play, with teams of friends gathered to vanquish all challengers.
“It’s a good chance to hang out with friends, get together, and there’s a lot of weird and obscure things you find out you know that you didn’t think you did,” said Katie McBeth, a regular at Whole Foods’ Wednesday night quiz. “You even learn a bit, and can then be that cool person at the party who knows some weird thing about James Garner.”
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Perhaps you don’t know much about the former star of “The Rockford Files,” but every quiz will stretch your brain on every topic under the sun. A round on the Amazon River, the Amazon rainforest, Amazon.com and Amazonian women? Sure. A round where every answer rhymes? There’s that, too.
You never know what will be asked, and it keeps folks coming back, testing themselves or waiting for that one question right in their wheelhouse.
“The people that come here, they kind of become family,” said Jeffrey Isaak, the quizmaster at Edge Brewing Co. “It’s fun; you have regulars that become a little community.”
Edge’s popular Monday night show is part of the Geeks Who Drink company of quizzes, which also includes Wednesdays at Tom Grainey’s and Thursdays at Piper Pub.
Prefer a faster pace, with some offbeat themes? This is the one for you. It is an eight-round quiz with eight questions per round, including two audio rounds (identifying songs is always a maddening one), plus a visual round. Tom Grainey’s includes Boise’s only video round.
Between some rounds, whoever answers a bonus question the quickest wins a free beer. There also are occasional themed quizzes that cost $5 to enter. Recent topics have included Game Of Thrones, Star Wars, Disney movies and Harry Potter. The winner gets cash. In the free, regular quizzes for Geeks Who Drink and other trivia nights around town, gift cards are your prize.
“I enjoy the microphone and the attention. It’s a chance to perform,” said Isaak, who also does standup comedy and has missed just 10 shows of the nearly 400 he’s had scheduled in five years. “... The questions are well-written, there’s a ton of variety, so it’s never the same.”
Example question: “What are three most populated metropolitan areas along the Mississippi River?”
A little less chaotic is another company that has multiple shows during the week: Last Call Productions. From Monday through Thursday, quizzes are hosted at 10 spots around Boise. A total of 24 questions are asked, with multiple bonus opportunities. With more time between questions, there is plenty of time to socialize. Teams have even been known to yield a free beer pitcher to another team with which it tied.
“I’m a trivia nerd. I’d been doing it so long, thought I’d be good at hosting and make a little extra money,” said Jeff Lee, who runs Last Call on Wednesdays at Jumpin’ Janet’s and a Family Feud-style game there Tuesdays. “I’ve played at other places, but this format is the best. It’s classic trivia.”
Example question: “Between 1991 and 2016, five Best Actress winners at the Oscars have a first name that starts with J. Name four of them.”
Locally based Game Night Live offers a game similar to Last Call, with a dozen spots every night but Saturday across Nampa, Caldwell, Eagle, Meridian and Boise. The Whole Foods night is a popular one. It also adds in word jumbles, picture rounds and audio questions, adding a twist similar to Geeks Who Drink. There is a certain rush from waiting to hear the emcee read off the answer after sweating it out for a minute or two once handing it in.
Example question: “What is the name for the sushi dish prepared from pufferfish, which must be carefully done, or otherwise can be poisonous to the eater?”
Some spots embrace the DIY ethos — R Bar on Wednesdays and Spacebar on Sundays are two popular independent nights.
Amanda Mardian at Spacebar is the kind of hero trivia nerds need. The format she runs, with four 10-question rounds, often covers a wide variety of trivia. On Sunday, the quiz focused on cartoons from the 1990s. For most of the two-and-a-half years Mardian has run the show, it has been the only Sunday show around.
“It took a long time to get it started ... I was hired on as a bartender. I’m a former professional tutor, and I was trying to get more people into the bar,” Mardian said. “Most places do it on a weekday night where they need more people in, but I figured Sunday was slow, and we might get some of the service-industry crowd.”
Example question: “What character is the only one on The Simpsons that has five fingers?”
Mardian comes up with her own questions, which takes quite a bit of research, but it’s work she’s gladly accepted.
“It saves the bar some money. I can do it as part of work, so it’s been a fun part of my job,” she said.
Gathering some friends, hanging out at your local pub, having some drinks and food, amazing yourself and others with what you know? Winners all around.
• • •
Answer 1: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Memphis, St. Louis
Answer 2: Jodie Foster, Jessica Lange, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore
Answer 3: Fugu
Answer 4: God
Some places to get your trivia on in the Treasure Valley
Geeks Who Drink: Edge Brewing at 7:30 p.m. Mondays, Tom Grainey’s at 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Piper Pub at 8 p.m. Thursdays
Last Call Productions: Sofia’s Greek Bistro at 7 p.m. Mondays, Old Chicago downtown at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Jumpin’ Janets at 8 p.m. Tuesdays (Feud), Flying M in Nampa at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Hyde Park Pub& Grill at 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Barrelhouse Pub in Garden City at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Jumpin’ Janets at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Eastside Tavern at 8 p.m. Thursdays
Game Night Live: Whole Foods in Boise at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Slanted Rock Brewing in Meridian at 7 p.m Thursdays, Mad Swede Brewing in Boise at 7 p.m. Thursdays, Big Al’s in Meridian at 7 p.m. Thursdays, Sam’s Smokehouse and Saloon at 6 p.m. Sundays. Rock’N Bingo is held Monday-Friday at spots throughout the Treasure Valley
Spacebar Arcade: 7 p.m. Sundays
R Bar: 9 p.m. Wednesdays