Milwaukee's Oldest Bar Trivia League Turns Ten
Milwaukee’s oldest bar trivia league – Quizmaster Trivia – turns ten years old this month. Although trivia nights had been around in Milwaukee bars since at least the early 2000s (mostly through national, computerized networks that listed the questions and answers on a television screen), the game really got going in December 2006 at the old Britinn in Shorewood (it has since burned down). “The pub was owned by a British bloke with an all-British staff,” Ryan Wickens, one of the city’s earliest trivia hosts and owner of Quizmaster Trivia, told Around MKE via email. “So when they were looking into weeknight entertainment a ‘pub quiz,’ which has been a staple of pub culture in the U.K. for decades, was a natural fit.”
Trivia nights at the Britinn were a hit and other local bars, like the Nomad, Bremen Café, and Vitucci’s soon got in on the action. A May 2007 report on the boom in bar trivia’s popularity in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reveals that not much has changed about the game or its participants. Some came to win, others just to hang out. Some studied before hand, others winged it. Cheating (“using computers, cell phones, or blackberry devices,” per the ’07 MJS) was strictly verboten. Having a ironic or puny team name (The Kirk Camerons, Stephen Hawking’s Football Boots, and others too vulgar for print were found in ’07) was strongly encouraged.
Milwaukee’s trivia game is now more competitive than ever, says Wickens, who has since been to able to ditch his bartending and daytime gigs and run Quizmaster full-time. “That's obviously great for the consumer as they have choices on where to play but it also keeps us at Quizmaster Trivia on our toes, and ensures we're always doing whatever we can to make players quiz with us.” As for the surge in the game’s popularity over the past decade, he hesitates to take much of the credit. “I think it was just a matter of time. If I hadn't created the brand, someone else would have most certainly seen the potential and stepped in.” Quizmaster now operates trivia leagues state-wide, in Colorado, California, Minnesota, and in Wickens’ hometown of London. Wickens himself estimates that he crafted over 40,000 questions in the past decade and continues to write all of Quizmaster’s quizzes himself. “So yeah,” he said. “You could say I'm a walking encyclopedia of useless knowledge.”
Quizmaster will begin a new city-wide Milwaukee league in January, but anyone is welcome to play along in their contests, which are held Monday-Thursday at a wide variety of local bars. For a full schedules, or for more information, visit www.quizmastertrivia.com.