The required tools for a night of pub trivia in Durango: note pad, pen and frosty cold beverage. A head full of useless facts also comes in handy./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Trivial pursuit

Pub quizzes fuel locals’ thirst for knowledge

by Stacy Falk

If you happen to walk into a bar and find people huddled around their drinks, whispering and scribbling notes, then you’ve likely stumbled in on trivia night. Between rounds, there’s smack talk and heckling among the regulars. Don’t mess with the regulars. They mean business, and business is winning.

Weekly, organized trivia nights in Durango can be described in many ways, from a serious competition to a way to stave off early Alzheimer’s to a reason to feel better about drinking on a week night. Some even say trivia night, also known as “pub quiz,” might be the best-kept secret in town.

While each trivia night has its own flare, there’s two things they all have in common. First, all the tables and bar stools are full, so get there early. And secondly, absolutely no cheating allowed, aka put your smart phones away. Get caught, get the boot.

If you haven’t partaken already, you might consider trivia night as a cure for cabin fever during these cold, lonely nights of winter. Can’t decide where to start? Try em’ all. You may even notice the same teams making the rounds at various venues throughout the week.

To get your fix of brain-boggling debauchery, there are four options to choose from:

1. Super Ted’s Super Trivia

When: Tuesdays at 6 p.m.
Where: Ska Brewing, 225 Girard St., Bodo

Trivia master: Ted Holteen
Brain Teaser Rating: 5 brains

Unlike playing “Jeopardy” or “Trivial Pursuit,” this challenging five-round quiz has become the who’s who of trivia in town. Holteen, who writes his own questions, says there’s a lot of history and random facts, and his trivia night is quite possibly the most difficult.

“I watch TV with a notebook,” says Holteen. “What can I say, I’m a dork.”

There’s even a challenging audio round delivered by Bryant Liggett, KDURs station manager, who says his folder of 300-plus triviatunes is growing by the day. “I hear a song at the grocery store and I say, ‘hey that’ll make a great trivia song.’”

Teams of no more than six come together with numerous backgrounds, and these teams tend to be there every week, usually sitting in the same place. From professors, architects, firefighters, business owners, judges and artists, each team is determined to score the most points. Prizes – beer of course – but it goes beyond that. It’s all about holding the title and being that team, such as “Team Charlie,” that everyone wants to defeat week after week.

“I live for Tuesday nights,” says Jeff Leith, of “Los Jefes.” “This is the original trivia night.”

Although Super Ted’s Super Trivia reigns supreme, having been around since 2009, it’s not technically the original. Janet Spear, also of Los Jefes, says that, up until six years ago, during the time she owned Lady Falconburghs Barley Exchange, she not only offered a successful trivia night that kicked off in the mid-’90s, but helped establish the infamous Snowdown “Lady F’s Lunacy,” a popular trivia contest that will be turning 20 in 2015.

Last week, as teams struggled to identify a historical, female country singer during Liggetts “Name That Tune,” Ska’s beertender, Kristen Smith, kept the suds pouring, for it’s also 2-for-1 night on select pints.

Smith says she has worked trivia nights for the past 2½ years and looks forward to seeing the trivia-goers every week. She enjoys running the upstairs bar  where, up to a dozen or so, top ranking teams like to perch themselves for the evening. As the beers go down and the points go up, teams sitting downstairs might start yelling at the teams upstairs and vice versa.

 “There’s a following up here; people come an hour early to reserve their tables,” says Smith. “We’ve got a strong clientele and many of these customers have become my friends.”

If you can place prestigious golf courses to their home state, get to Ska.

2. Geeks Who Drink

When: Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m.
Where: BREW Pub and Kitchen, 117 W College Drive

Trivia master: Eric Prosser, librarian, Fort Lewis College
Brain Teaser Rating : 3 brains

Hanna Wardlow and Chris Pierce are pub quiz enthusiasts. According to them, there’s a difference between trivia and pub quiz, and “Geeks Who Drink” is pub quiz.

“Pub quiz questions are often based around pop culture, so it makes you feel smarter than you are,” says Pierce.

The recently engaged couple said they were ecstatic when they found out last October that “Geeks Who Drink” made it to Durango. They had heard about the game from a friend in Nashville, who urged them to try it out when he saw it was coming to Durango. “It’s common in bigger cities such as Albuquerque and Denver,” said Wardlow, who plays for the Loyal Royal Rural Jurors. 

Erik Maxson, BREW co-owner and head brewer, also loves trivia and says he didn’t realize there was a difference between that and pub quiz. But when he was confronted by “Geeks Who Drink,” a national company, he couldn’t resist. 4

“We really like the cheekiness of this format,” says Maxson, who’s seen an increase in business due to the event. “It’s nice to see folks in here later in the evening, especially this time of year.”

Maxson, who’d like to note that he’s a four-time Lunacy champion, said choosing the night to host the event itself was tough, ultimately becoming a process of elimination. “We can’t mess with Super Ted, that’s for sure,” he says. “And with football on Monday nights and knowing that Thursdays through Sundays are already good for business, that really just left Wednesdays.”

By teaming up with “Geeks Who Drink,” Maxson says the staff doesn’t have to worry about any details. It’s an all-inclusive package from marketing to supplies and a host. Meanwhile, Prosser, who recently moved to Durango, had already applied to be a quizmaster with “Geeks Who Drink” while he was still living in his former home of Tucson.

“I was visiting Durango and saw that BREW was signing up to be a part of ‘Geeks Who Drink,” he says. “I thought it would be great way to meet people when I did make the move.”

Prosser says the two audio rounds and one visual round have a tendency to keep players interested and excited. And it’s not all pop culture, as in name “that Lorde song.” A few weeks back, one audio round consisted of all presidential debates.

3. Irish Embassy Pub Quiz

When: Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Irish Embassy, 900 Main Ave.
Trivia master: Michael Ackerman, educator
Brain Teaser Rating: 4 brains

The pub chalk board reads, “Bored on a Wed. night? Try our pub quiz.” Which is exactly why team “Triple Threat” – Stephanie Randall, Megan Boyd and Nene Shure – started taking their girls night out to the Embassy.

“I like that it’s something to do besides just drinking,” says Randall, who recently discovered the event.

Each week, team standings are posted on the wall. Teams – such as “Marginal,” “Star Whores 69,” “Dr. Zeppelin” and “3 Way” – are continuous top contenders for the weekly prize, a $100 bar tab prize and a bottle of champagne.

Laura Owens, of Star 69, says she’s been playing since the pub started the quiz a few years back. And not just because she prefers to drink Strongbow but because of the unique group of people.

“Trivia tends to attract a certain crowd, and that crowd is the nerds I suppose,” says Owens. “Plus, everyone has good camaraderie; I’ve seen teams give away their prizes.”

Michael Ackerman started hosting pub quiz last spring when the position opened up. He, like Holteen, is also known for some pretty difficult rounds which are full of obscure facts and historical fascinations.

“The idea is to drink, think and have a lot of fun,” says Ackerman. “It will get competitive.”

Ackerman says when he is writing questions, he likes to base them around a theme or muse. For example, he wrote an entire set of trivia that related to his dearly departed Aunt Lulu. Ackerman says, however, that he is always open to requests. “People like their trivia, so it’s important to keep them happy,” he says.

If you know what substance the Romans used to clean and whiten their teeth, you might consider starting your trivia career at the Embassy.

4. Discovery Trivia

When: Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Powerhouse Science Center, 1333 Camino
Triviamaster: Brett Cadwell, PSC finance director
Brain Teaser Rating: 3 brains

Maggie Ashby enjoys attending the Discovery Trivia night with her husband, Jordan, and her parents, Karen and Jeff Wilson, as often as possible. She says she likes the laid-back atmosphere and as far as she knows, there’s no cheating going on, something she says she’s witnessed at other trivia nights. “The variety of questions offer everyone a chance to know an answer,” she says.

Still making up excuses not to try a trivia night? Well, it’s not advertised, but if leaving fido at home isn’t an option, the Powerhouse allows well-behaved dogs to join the fun. There were four furry friends in attendance at last Thursday’s trivia. And if you’re worried about missing dinner, no problem. Because the Powerhouse Eatery is only open in the summer, players are encouraged to have a pizza delivered or bring a meal from home during the winter. Plus, there are a variety of beers on tap at the Powerhouse Libations.

Trivia host Cadwell utilizes a giant screen during his visual round to project images of anything from flags and countries to album covers and Muppet characters. Remember that old game where you snap those different-sized discs into a cup? A team member from “Daisy Peed On Me” did. And she got so excited having known the answer when the image appeared, she said “Tiddlywinks” a little too loud which most likely gave away the answer to nearby teams.

Cadwell’s technique in keeping his questions moderately difficult is most likely the reason that the Discovery Trivia night brings in not only a steady attendance of 25 teams, but the most diverse age group of players.

“The trick is to find a medium that keeps people engaged,” Cadwell says. “It’s not fun if no one knows what you’re talking about.”

Gary Prisby, of the “Fautian Bargains,” says that Cadwell does an amazing job. “Trivia is trivia,” he says, “but Brett, more than any others I’ve known, keeps the questions real. In other words, you may not know the answer but you want to know the answer, versus you may not know the answer and don’t care to know.”

So, where is the Negev Desert anyway?