Pub quizzes truly are the purest form of urban entertainment. They’re like gambling without the personal risk: you walk in and enter for free, and if the right questions come up, you could walk away with a free meal, free booze or free cash. In a world where ATMs sometimes charge you to withdraw your own money, pub quizzes are a glorious anomaly.
The good news is that the pub quiz scene in Stirling is thriving. In preparing for this practical guide, I wrote up a list of seven quizzes that occur regularly in either the city centre or closer to the university, and although one of those is no more (following the shamefully abrupt closure of the Boozy Cow on King Street), there are whisperings on the circuit of new ones springing up at Lawson’s, the new gin lounge on Baker Street, and the Birds and the Bees in Causewayhead.
With so many to choose from and some overlapping, which of these quizzes are worth your time? Over the past couple of weeks, I have been on a painstaking mission to take part in every one of Stirling’s pub quizzes and find out. I have given them ratings out of ten for their venue, their prizes and their questions, but I haven’t ranked them. You can decide which ones sound more up your street.
Thrillingly, I’ve also included a sample question from each quiz, so you can test your own trivia knowledge. There won’t be a huge case of Desperados or Fruit Shoot for the winner. The answers are at the end of the article.
I’m going in alphabetical order, so we’ll start with our first of three Baker Street pubs.
BREWDOG – Mondays from 8pm
BrewDog Stirling opened up in the spot previously occupied by Drouthy Neebors back in late 2015, making it approximately 282 years younger than the oldest pub on our list. Until recently, the quiz was run by Mick, and the events chalkboard at the bar still bears his name – the current quizmaster is, in fact, John Joe.
The bar itself lives up to most people’s expectations of BrewDog. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a pint for under £4, and there’s a fine selection of craft beers that will cost you an awful lot more. This has clearly resulted in a higher class of customer: the graffiti in the toilet includes a quote from The Tempest.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this would result in a snobby quiz with questions about Neutral Milk Hotel and the mumblecore films of Noah Baumbach, but John Joe consistently produces excellent quizzes with a fine mix of challenging and simpler questions. There are six rounds, including one picture and one music, each on a topic of his choice.
If your team name is judged to be the funniest, you get a pizza for the table. If you win the overall quiz, everyone in your team gets a free pizza and pint of beer.
Sample Question: What animal inspired Robert the Bruce with its willingness to keep trying until it succeeded?
KILTED KANGAROO – Wednesdays from 9pm
Although this was only the second time I had taken part, I’m pretty happy to admit that the KK seems to be the king of the quizzes in Stirling. Turnout is absolutely monstrous – just about every table in the place is filled.
This apparent superiority is also shown in the slickness of the quiz’s production. Each question appears on each of the manifold television screens dotted around the pub, and the answer sheets are carefully designed and printed in colour. The quiz is even sponsored by Desperados, who provide the main prize of a 24-crate of the tequila-flavoured, mysteriously cannabis-scented drink.
I must admit, I felt a little intimidated by it all. Everything was over-the-top, from the speed and the scale to the prizes: besides the Desperados for the overall winner, the winners of the first half and second half of the quiz each get a Kilted Kangaroo food voucher, and the teams whose names are plucked at random by the quizmaster near the beginning all get a free pizza. Then there’s also the raffle, where you get the chance to win any of a number of prizes, ranging from £100 to a Fruit Shoot, by playing a bafflingly complicated safe-cracking game.
Overall, it was really not my cup of tea. The quizzes I enjoy most are the cosy, slightly ramshackle ones. At the KK, I could hardly hear the quizmaster over the noise of the place. It was also the only pub I went to where I didn’t catch the name of the quizmaster. And, fatally, it was the only pub quiz I went to where the teams didn’t applaud each score as they were announced at the end. It was just too big.
Sample question: Which 1996 disaster movie featuring Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt was the first film to be released on DVD?
NICKY-TAMS – Sundays from 9pm
I have been a regular at the Nicky-Tams Sunday night pub quiz for over two years now, and it has never disappointed. It’s simply a pleasant place in which to spend time, with its creaky staircase and idiosyncratic décor. I even like the men’s toilets, where the slope of the roof forces you to pee while leaning right back, as if you’re trying to watch an eclipse.
I’ve seen a few quizmasters come and go at Tams. The current one is Matt, who brings a certain frantic energy to proceedings, particularly if someone drunk at the bar has started shouting out the answers. That being said, there is often quite a long wait between questions and rounds.
Matt has been known in the past to offer a piece of his delectable home baking to teams. Failing that, you also get a small treat (think a packet of Sensations or some Jaffa Cakes) if you win a round and a £30 bar tab for winning the quiz overall. The night also includes a £1-a-ticket raffle, where you get the chance to win the total amount of money raised by the raffle by answering a question.
Alongside the traditional rounds of general knowledge and music, the Nicky-Tams quiz has adopted a physical element with the bucketball round, which involves attempting to throw a ball of plastic into a bucket from across the room. Unironically enthralling.
Sample question: Who is the first character to speak in the first Star Wars film?
NO. 2 BAKER STREET – Tuesdays from 9pm
Our third and final Baker Street pub, this one also happens to be run by John Joe from BrewDog. As such, you can expect the same high quality of questions and a roughly similar format.
There are a couple of fairly major differences, though: since No. 2 is a Belhaven pub, the drinks are inevitably a lot cheaper. A pint of Best, for instance, is just £2.95. It is cosier than the slightly bare and metallic interior of BrewDog; however, since it is a chain, the place does lack some of the charm of places like Tams and the Settle Inn.
Something else that differs this quiz from BrewDog, but links it to every other quiz on this list, is the addition of an exciting raffle element. If your number is chosen, like mine was, you immediately get £5 and a four pack of Belhaven Best cans, and a chance to win more with Play Your Cards Right. Inevitably, I blew that chance, but I was pretty happy with my fiver and my cans.
The team that wins the quiz gets a £30 Belhaven voucher – roughly comparable to the tab prize at Nicky-Tams, except that it can be spent at other places owned by the company like Morrisons Cold Beer Company and the City Walls.
Sample question: At what temperature does water boil in Fahrenheit?
SETTLE INN – Sundays from 9pm
The Settle Inn quiz is pretty singular among Stirling’s pub quizzes for several reasons, the most obvious of which is the fact that it has its own name, gracing the top of the fancy poster that is displayed outside the pub: “BIG 50 QUIZ”. That name is explained by the rest of the poster:
“50 QUESTIONS. 50 ANSWERS. 50 QUID PRIZE. With WHEEL OF FORTUNE game”
At the end of each quiz night, Leslie, who runs both the quiz and the Inn itself, asks for suggestions for rounds from the teams. She’ll then incorporate those ideas into the following week’s quiz. While this adds quite a pleasant personal touch to the night, it also means that some of the 50 questions are in categories to be found nowhere else in Stirling, and some of the 50 answers are maddeningly obscure.
The categories on the night that we went were ‘Still Game’, ‘The Letter W’, ‘Surrealist Art’ and ‘Classical Music’ – already you can see the eclecticism on display. What results is undoubtedly the most difficult quiz in Stirling, with questions that even people knowledgeable in each subject might struggle to answer. Thankfully, the Wheel of Fortune game that takes place at the end of the quiz throws in an element of luck, so that even people who didn’t study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland might leave with a prize.
All of this results in an evening of enjoyable insanity, where you can hear even hardened quiz aficionados laughing to themselves at the ridiculousness of a question. And it all takes place in Stirling’s oldest and most attractive pub, running since it was converted from a cheese factory in 1733.
Sample question: Which French writer is known as the father of the surrealist movement?
THE WILLIAM WALLACE – Thursdays from 8.30pm
As the archetypal ‘old man pub’, it is appropriate that I consider the Wallace to be the grandad of all of Stirling’s pub quizzes. My team and I have been occasional regulars on Thursday nights since we were in first year, and I graduate next month. The Wallace is the place where I first bonded with my flatmates over pints of Best and Tennent’s; flatmates who, I’m thankful to say, remain my friends four years later.
The atmosphere of the place encourages gentle, friendly conversations. Despite being owned by Belhaven, it is family-run, and it has retained the natural charm of a traditional Scottish pub. There are a couple of tellies that show the football or golf when it’s on, and you can find a pool table and dartboard in a room adjacent to the main bar.
This traditional image is reinforced by the classic, straightforward Thursday night quiz. It’s been run by Davy for a couple of years now. Although everyone knows he gets his questions off the internet, he crams so many in that it really doesn’t matter. There are four rounds: one and three stick to the normal format, with most questions split into several parts. Round two involves a handout. Round four is stick or twist, where you can accumulate points quickly or lose everything with a wrong answer.
There is joy in simplicity. The quiz is followed by the raffle, where you can choose to Play Your Cards Right for £50 or answer a particularly difficult question for £100. There are prizes for both first and second place in the Wallace quiz: usually some combination of a crate of Budweiser, some Matchmakers, a bottle of fizzy wine and a box of Heroes.
Sample Question: Name the four borders of the Czech Republic.
Answers: 1. A spider 2. Twister 3. C-3PO 4. 212° 5. André Breton 6. Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria.