Friday, 18 October 2013

Moose's Down Under Trivia

Where: Moose's Down Under, Basement, 830 Pender St. Look for a set of stairs down from street level.

When: 7:00pm Wednesdays. Reservations are required as it fills to capacity

Web presence: Mentions on the restaurant's Facebook page, but no dedicated site

Registration fee: None!

Imagine eating this.
Team info: Strict limit of six to a team

Prizes: The winners receive their choice of Moose's branded swag, or the option to try for a cash jackpot on an ultra-tough final question. 

Format: Four rounds of 10 questions each, with activities between rounds to keep up the energy level. 

Food and drink: is the culinary equivalent of Australian rock.

Britain is usually hailed as the holy land of pub quizzes, but its seems that Australia is no less skilled in the quizzing arts than their former colonial overlords. For proof of this one need look no further than Moose's Down Under, perhaps Vancouver's most thoroughly Australian establishment, whose weekly trivia is also one of the city's most enjoyable.

Held Wednesdays in an ancient lair beneath Pender Street, Moose's quiz packs the catacombs with a suitably callithumpian crowd. So packed is the venue, in fact, that reservations are mandatory; don't make one, don't play.

I recommend you do. For the unbeatable entry fee of zero dollars, you get not only forty big beefy questions, but three intermezzo mini-games, and a customized team nameplate (you make it yourself with house-provided washable markers and 5-by-7 index card).

During my visit, hosting duties went to understudy Rhona, who delivered plenty of energy and humour in the course of what must be one of the greatest all-time understudy fill-ins since Christine Daaé took over for Carlotta at Opéra Garnier. I can't speak to hosting abilities of the usual host, but poor Moose's may have a Luongo-Schneider dilemma on their hands in the near future.

On the subject of music, Moose's forgoes the customary name-that-tune round in favor a straight-ticket of meat-and-potatoes general knowledge questions, which are well conceived, researched, and edited (with one unfortunate exception during my visit; more on that later). They also include two unique house rules that ramp up the excitement levels: first, a majority vote of teams adds four multiple choice options to any question, which boosts scores and encourages comebacks; and second, the winning team has an option to give up their prize for a crack at a cash jackpot on a super-stumper. White knuckle stuff to be sure.

Between rounds, patrons will also enjoy mini-events such as "Porn Star or Pro Wrestler," skittle bowling, and paper airplane contests; the winning team is awarded two extra points and the their choice of a free pitcher or round of shots. This might be a good point to reiterate: there are no entry fees! If the quiz is any indication, Australia must have really bucked that global recession.

Where Moose's falls down a little is speed. The host takes on the burdensome task of marking answer sheets between rounds, which enables a running scoreline but slows things down. As well, the popularity of the quiz creates a snarl in the kitchen that means about half an hour between ordering and food on table. But this is easily mitigated if you check out the menu beforehand and order when you sit down.

Things also went a bit pear-shaped in the final round, which asked players to rank 10 of the 14 largest cities in the world, in order. This proved to be punishingly difficult, with all teams present scoring a collective two points. To her credit, the hostess had the sangfroid to wring some humour out of the fiasco and got a good round of laughs for it.

If you can take transit or otherwise avoid parking, do it. Metered spots around Pender Street go for a usurious $5 per hour, for a total of $15 to park for the duration of the quiz. I found a nearby lot and did a little better, paying $6.50 for overnight, but I sure won't do it again.

So? There is no shortage of quizzes to be found on Wednesday nights, but this one should be your first choice. Solid questions, plenty of entertainment, and a hot crowd hit a triple whammy of excellence that is sure to leave you  thunderstruck.

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