Bar trivia takes over Rochester


The Force was strong at LTS Brewery several nights ago.

It was trivia night at the northwest Rochester brewery, and Jon Clark, taproom attendant and trivia master of ceremonies, had his hands full dealing with the hardcore "Star Wars" crowd and their nitpicky questions.

Trivia hosts are bound to get the question swatted back at them for clarification if it’s not asked with lightsaber precision.

Take, for example, the seemingly straight-forward question, "What is the first line in Star Wars?" Not so simple. Are you referring to the movies by chronological order or by their release date?

But we digress from the larger point, which is that LTS had its biggest Tuesday trivia night ever, sold a lot of beer and most people went home happy.


"We used to have slow Tuesdays, and now they’ve picked up a lot because of the trivia," says taproom manager Carissa Darcy.

A lot of breweries and pubs are finding that beer and trivia are an unbeatable combination. There is hardly in a day in the week in which a trivia night isn’t offered somewhere in Rochester. Forager Brewery, Crooked Pint Ale House, the Tap House, Big Brad’s and Pappy’s Place all host a weekly trivia night. Grand Rounds Brew Pub will be starting up a trivia night on July 26.

"Breweries are kind of realizing that the exact combinations of what people have historically done while drinking can actually be a little wider," says Sean McPherson, co-owner of Minneapolis-based Trivia Mafia , a bar trivia business. "People want to play some trivia and then grab a beer. We’re seeing that market open up to us a lot."

Trivia Mafia offers its services to Big Brad’s (it’s on hiatus until Thursdays on First ends in September) and Crooked Pint, and is starting up a trivia night at Grand Rounds.

McPherson is in a better position than most to understand trivia’s inexhaustible appeal, having been in the bar trivia business for a decade. People’s intelligence and memories are underutilized, he says. We all carry with us loads of information — about the World War II, about movies and music, about art — that almost never gets used. Trivia explores those regions of brains that never get a workout at work.

"There are these folks that don’t get the challenge their brain deserves," McPherson says.

Among those up for the challenge is Kurt Berge, who, with his wife, moved to Rochester last year. The engineering mapping technician scoured the Internet looking for trivia bar nights here, and they weren’t hard to find. Since then, Berge has become a regular at the Tap House, where his mastery of minutiae relating to geography and music helped him win a $50 bar tab there recently.

For Berge, there is a sense of discovery in matching wits with other contestants.


"You never know what you know," says Berge. "There’s that discovery of pulling something out of the inner recesses of your gray matter that is kind of joyful."

A bad question is like a comedian whose jokes flop. There is a knack to asking good trivia questions, McPherson says. A well-crafted trivia question is tantalizing. Maybe the answer doesn’t quickly leap to mind, but you can feel it on the periphery, waiting to be pulled in.

Trivia Mafia employs a range of writers to compose questions. Each one brings a different perspective and expertise on youth culture, sports, European history, women’s issues, to better ensure a wide range of questions.

"Nobody goes to the bar to be told they’re dumb. That’s not what we do," says McPherson. "We go to the bar to be rewarded for what you do know and challenged by what you don’t know."

But McPherson acknowledges that writing "Star Wars" questions is particularly challenging.

"’Star Wars’ is a pain in the ass," McPherson says. "You can get a lot of clarifying questions when you do ‘Star Wars.’ ‘Star Wars’ is a wicked beast."


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