Thirst for knowledge

Sacramento's bloodthirsty pub-quiz players compete for prizes, drinks and bragging rights

For the last 12 years, Streets of London Pub quizmaster Ken Koch has been testing the knowledge of local trivia buffs.

For the last 12 years, Streets of London Pub quizmaster Ken Koch has been testing the knowledge of local trivia buffs.

They've been around for decades, but in recent years, quiz nights have started to dominate the Sacramento pub and bar scene. An alternative to boring happy hours (or worse, spending another night on the couch), these trivia matches are a popular draw, attracting beer-guzzling patrons who have a seemingly unquenchable thirst for questions that parse minute details on current events, history, pop culture, sports and more.

Pub quizzes typically feature teams, but otherwise, the approach differs from bar to bar. There are theme nights, prizes big and small, and, of course, endless rounds of drinks. Whatever the style, however, the bloodthirsty goal remains the same: correctly answer the most questions and beat the hell out of the opposing teams.

Stumped on picking one of the city's myriad pub quizzes? The following is a guide to some of Sac's top question-and-answer sessions.

Bonn Lair

Quiz night: Sundays at 8:30 p.m.

Challenge meter: Medium to difficult

Bonus points for best team name: I’ve Got Quiz All Over Your Face

Unique detail: Sacramento’s longest-running pub quiz

Knowledge is power: With 14 years of trivia questions to its credit, this neighborhood pub hosts a challenge during which teams of four members are allowed to compete for a $20 bar credit, random prizes and bragging rights. Second and third place receive a free round of drinks for their team. Manager and regular trivia-night host Mike Smith says 60 to 70 percent of the participants are neighborhood regulars and advises rookies against his key pet peeves: inebriated hecklers and horrible penmanship. But fret not, newbies. Smith also offers advice on how to build a well-balanced dream team: “You have to find a balance between the person that knows sports [and] the person who watches too much TV,” he says.

3651 J Street, (916) 455-7155,

Streets of London Pub

Night: Sundays at 9 p.m.

Challenge meter: Medium

Bonus points for best team name: Drinks Well With Others

Unique detail: Host Ken Koch

Agatha Quizzties team members (from left to right) Leslie Sabin, Emily Wang and Jessica Pine get ready to compete.

Knowledge is power: For the past 12 years, Ken Koch has tested the knowledge of Midtown bar dwellers with two rounds of 30 questions in categories such as film, history and current events. With 30 years at Tower Records’ chain headquarter offices behind him, Koch says his brain has stored a large database of questions—but he still scours the Internet and newspapers for new material. In addition to the Midtown location, Koch also hosts a pub quiz at the Streets of London location in West Sacramento (2200 Lake Washington Boulevard) on Wednesday nights at 8:30 p.m. and at Churchill Arms Pub in Folsom (649 E. Bidwell Street) on Tuesday nights, also at 8:30 p.m. Koch says he typically comes up with 100 unique questions weekly. “I’ve always liked meaningless information,” he says.

1804 J Street, (916) 498-1388,

Elixir Bar & Grill

Quiz night: Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.

Challenge meter: Fun to medium

Bonus points for best team name: Pre-Medicated Murder

Unique detail: Free-shots round

Knowledge is power: Bar chef Shann Marriott Jr. hosts the Think While You Drink Trivia night at Elixir Bar & Grill. Its take on the quiz challenge includes a popular free-shots round. Correctly answer an alcohol-related question between rounds five and six, and the entire team wins an order of spirits. Sample question: “How long did prohibition last up until the very minute?” (Hint: The correct answer specifies the very minute.) Prizes include the standard bar credit (ranging from $10 to $20 for the entire team) as well as bragging rights. Other spins on the genre include a “Who am I?” assassination category and a Jeopardy!-style endgame wager—the latter which, Marriott says, has been known to elevate a last-place team into trivia champions. Take note, Marriott has a warning for those who participate with with cellphones in hand: “If Google’s on your team, get the fuck out.”

1815 10th Street, (916) 442-0693.

The Press Club

Bonn Lair owner Dave Boyet says the ideal pub quiz team comprises a balance with team members well-versed in news, sports, history and pop culture.

Quiz night: Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

Challenge meter: Medium to difficult

Bonus points for best team name: Iron Maidens

Unique detail: Theme nights

Knowledge is power: This bar’s Flex Your Head night boasts a variety of hosts, theme nights, an emphasis on pop culture and a vintage game-show vibe (check out those The Price Is Right sound effects). And, if a team appears to be doing well enough, Pulp Fiction sound bites of Samuel L. Jackson quotes of approval are cued up (example: “Check out the big brain on Brad”). Prizes include drink tickets and show passes for the entire winning team. The ante’s upped on theme nights. For example, at The Big Lebowski challenge in December 2012, the first-prize winner also walked away with a bowling ball. Or, during last October’s Halloween-themed event, the winner snagged some Kill Bill action figures and B-grade horror films. “There’s no Ph.D. required here,” says quiz organizer Sean Hills. “Our intention is to make it as close to a corny ’70s game show as we can.”

2030 P Street, (916) 444-7914.

The Shack

Quiz night: Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.

Challenge meter: Hard

Bonus points for best team name: The Shack Whackers

Unique detail: Family friendly

Knowledge is power: Picture kids, dogs and about 100 beers. The Shack is probably the only trivia night in town where children can be found running around under the watchful eyes of parents. The Shack boasts an impressive beer selection, and no wonder: Trivia host Dan Scott is also the Sacramento Beer Week organizer. Scott’s challenges are straightforward—this guy doesn’t mess around with special rounds, audio clips or themes. Rather, he shoots off 20 questions (and, sometimes, an extra tiebreaker). He also runs one of the most efficient games in town, making sure the game is finished by 8 p.m. Regular participants such as Jamie Iseman say they appreciate the early end time. “I can get home early enough to make it to work the next day,” she says. “The other [trivia nights] are more like a bar; this is where hipsters, kids and dogs come to play.”

5201 Folsom Boulevard, (916) 457-5997,