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  • Trivia Pursuits: A brainiac’s guide to Berlin’s pub quizzes


Trivia Pursuits: A brainiac’s guide to Berlin’s pub quizzes

In Berlin, your niche interests could make you popular at the pub (and earn you a little money). Let's get to know the city's popping pub quiz scene.

Illustration: Selina Lee

Despite originating in the dark and dingy pubs of Britain, the humble pub quiz has found its way, as all fun does, to Berlin. For such an anglocentric pastime, trivia nights abound in the capital in both English and German, perhaps due to Berlin’s wealth of international residents. The appeal is near-universal, as there’s a quiz for almost every niche interest, and it’s surprisingly communal for a pastime that involves dividing people into groups and making them compete for intellectual bragging rights, money or beer.

But in this city, trivia is anything but trivial – it’s actually very important that the members of ‘Taking Care of Quizness’ know who invented cloning, since team ‘Quiz Khalifa’ broke ahead in the Rod Stewart flash round. Berliners of all backgrounds take testing their knowledge more seriously than one might think, and if you know where to look, there’s hot competition to be found.

For the queer quizzers

Photo: @tipsy_bear_berlin

One visit to Tipsy Bear on a Tuesday night tells you it’s one of the liveliest quizzes Berlin has to offer. There are typically over 20 teams packing the bar, ready for a booze-filled two-hour written exam. The quiz night melds wonderfully with the queer surroundings; Tipsy Bear bills itself as “The Queer Heart of Prenzlauer Berg” and promises “Performances, Trivia, Karaoke, CHAOS!” The space is so packed full of kitsch and paraphernalia that you might find yourself searching for answers just by looking around.

It’s a wonderful, welcoming space full of raucous banter and plenty of queer jubilation and silliness.

The exuberant vibe is all down to hosts Nicole and DJ Frankie, working in tandem to keep questions flowing. Their combined speed at marking 20-plus answer sheets in the short breaks between rounds is astounding, and their enthusiasm and love for the crowd makes this a high-energy quiz from start to finish. “Music is important, keeping the energy up and the participants enthused,” says Nicole.

Spontaneity is the name of the game, with mystery categories to test your in-the-moment braininess. There are three anonymous prize boxes, two of which are, as the hosts put it, “random boxes of shit”, while one is a cash prize that rolls over between quizzes to create some pretty hefty payouts for those brainy (or lucky) enough to win. It’s a wonderful, welcoming space full of raucous banter and plenty of queer jubilation and silliness. Even if you come alone, the bartender might workshop some answers with you. Just be sure to arrive early to guarantee a seat.

  • Tipsy Bear, Eberswalder Str. 21, Prenzlauer Berg, second Tuesday of the month at 20:00, €5 per player, details.

For the friendly quizzers

Photo: @alteturnhalle

There’s nothing like the sound of simultaneous delight and dismay at the reveal of an answer, and that sound fills the Alte Turnhalle in Friedrichshain every Sunday. Let’s Get Quizzical is trivia at tournament scale, with dozens of tables booked and just as many set aside for solo quizzers looking to find a team on the fly. It’s your standard beer hall atmosphere, but with trivia.

This is an excellent spot if you’re on your own and looking to meet new people

While other quizzes accept single players or whole teams, the organisers here encourage tables of strangers, so this is an excellent spot if you’re on your own and looking to meet new people. The scope of things also means it’s a slower experience, with longer breaks between rounds – though a leaderboard is displayed throughout to keep your team appropriately engaged (and/or enraged). Quizmaster Steve Kirschhoff makes careful use of “feeder questions” with easy and crowd-pleasing subjects to draw in and settle newcomers. But the real function of this quiz is to encourage teamwork, to find those obscure corners of knowledge that someone on the team must have access to. It’s a great place to visit if you’re new to the city and looking to make some serendipitous connections.

  • Alte Turnhalle, Holteistr. 6-9, Friedrichshain, every other Sunday, €3 per player, details.

For the brainy bunch

Photo: @thecastle.mitte

The vibe at The Castle every Monday is one of intent and determination, with regular teams settling into the various nooks the bar provides, preparing for trivia battle. Athletes might stretch before a race; these teams can be found scrolling frantically through Wikipedia. These are true regulars, with teams showing up weekly and their names displayed on the ongoing league board. The questions get a little more intellectual here, though there might still be the odd round where you have to identify Will Smith songs played backwards. The elevated difficulty is the draw for the more competitive quizzers in the city.

There might still be the odd round where you have to identify Will Smith songs played backwards.

The “pub” element of the pub quiz remains essential, and the continual league is a great incentive to attend regularly. The teams here have an almost professional comradery, and often depend on the diverse knowledge that individuals bring in the face of wide-ranging questions. In the quizzing big leagues, it seems there is no space for lone wolves or bossy captains. If you’re looking to play the long game and beat the best brains in Berlin, this is your spot.

  • The Castle Berlin, Invalidenstr. 129, Mitte, every Monday at 19:30, €3 per player, details.

For the newshounds

Photo: @ratzeputzbar

Aptly named More Questions Than Answers, the pub quiz at Neukölln’s Ratzeputz bar is a fan favourite, especially for those who keep up with the news of the week. The quiz is exceptionally well-structured, but it’s really the environment that makes the night: the dive bar is always packed, often with teams that show up weekly. So packed, in fact, that it’s wise to arrive an hour or two early on nights where the jackpot – which rolls over week to week – climbs into the hundreds of euros. (At one April quiz, the winning team walked away with close to €750).

Did you actually read the news this week?

The quiz itself is broken into five rounds: music, general knowledge, random, a picture-based round and a current affairs round that will beg the question: did you actually read the news this week? Even the music round is topical – host Rob chooses a theme for the songs based on a current event. After a heated game, the winning team is offered a choice of three bottles: one contains the jackpot, one contains a round of drinks, and one contains… absolutely nothing – a ploy that raises both the stakes and the excitement.

Phones are strictly verboten here – they go so far as to mandate that you put yours in a paper bag for the duration of the quiz. It’s a nice screen break, and gives the quiz a genuine feeling of group engagement. There’s also seating outdoors with headphones provided to hear the questions, so it’s a perfect quiz for summer. Plus, the bar staff, who also compete in each week’s game and usually do remarkably well for having to pour drinks while they think, make stellar speciality cocktails.

  • Ratzeputz, Weserstr. 182, Neukölln, every Sunday at 19, €1 per player, details.

For the all-arounders

Photo: @belushis_berlinmitte

Quiz, Please! is a massive operation. “Showmanship, a wealth of prizes, and a good relationship with the location are integral to running a good quiz,” says Evgheni Dolomaji, who is less the quizmaster and more the master of ceremonies. With a game coordinator, a DJ, several assistants and host Tyrone Stallone reading questions penned by off-site editors, Quiz, Please! is a well-oiled, extremely polished trivia machine. It has a more commercial tone than other quizzes in the city – the format is a franchise that appears in 164 cities – but it’s also got family-friendly and welcoming themes and a low barrier to entry: a far cry from smoky bars and lewd team names.

These pub quiz nights have strict themes announced ahead of time.

Unlike many other quizzes, these pub quiz nights have strict themes announced ahead of time. (A May iteration was billed as “Music & Movies”, for instance), so it’s wise to study up before showing up. Train especially hard and you might even come away with one of the specially-made winners’ plaques. The categories are generally quite broad, often oriented around fandoms like Marvel or Game of Thrones, so avid enthusiasts of early 20th century Russian agriculture should probably seek a challenge elsewhere. But for those looking to showcase their knowledge on a wide spectrum of topics, you can say “yes, please”, to Quiz, Please!

  • Belushi’s Alexanderplatz, Rosa-Luxemburg-Str. 41, Mitte, every other Monday at 19:00, €15 per player, details.