For years, the most popular television show in Iceland has been a quiz show between the secondary schools in the country, called Gettu Betur (Guess Again). It has been around for twenty-one years. Although not as old, the pub-quiz Drekktu Betur (Drink Again), is an established institution in the local cultural life. The first quiz took place 4 years ago and April 4 will mark the 250th time it has been held.
It makes sense. After all, Icelanders love quiz games and Icelanders love to drink. Obviously, finding a way to combine these two things is merely an exercise in time-saving multi-tasking. In the nearest toy-store, for example, you can buy a board game, which, if played correctly, will result in the total drunken stupor of all participating players. If you feel inclined to watch this happen, or perhaps you don’t have any friends to play board-games with, feel free to join the crowd that gathers on the upper floor of Grand Rokk every Friday night at 18:00 for roughly an hour of answering questions and drinking beer.
The game follows a relatively standard pub-quiz format. The rules are simple: there is a quizmaster armed with 30 questions, participants form teams of two and try their best to outsmart the admittedly smart-ass questions. Answers are written down on paper and, in the end, teams exchange their slips of paper as the answers are reviewed. The team with the highest number of correct answers wins a case of beer. As a bonus, if you get question number 18 correct you get a free beer from the bar. If no team has at least 15 correct answers, the prize is moved to the following week and if two teams are tied then a bonus round is played with 5 additional questions.
Each week there is a new quizmaster, so every week the questions span a wide area of expertise. The quizmaster has free reign over the questions’ subject-matter. For example, a recent quiz was composed entirely of questions about Icelandic crime novels. The winning team won with 23 correct answers. The questions are mostly about general knowledge and popular culture, and recent news events are popular too.
Grand Rokk has a somewhat rowdy image in the pub world. One contributor to this magazine has publicly stated on its pages that he is afraid of stepping into the bar, fearing its regulars. I can safely testify that his fears are unfounded; the Friday quiz punters are an easy-going, quiet bunch, more interested in the prize than pounding other patrons.
After the quiz, many of the contestants gather outside to smoke, drink beer and discuss the questions. One participant, Kolbeinn Ó. Proppé, told me that he attended fairly regularly, sometimes as a competitor and sometimes as the quizmaster. “I come for the company, the competition and for a good way to relax after the working week.” When asked if he wins a lot he does not comment, but states with a stern face that it isn’t really about winning, but about having fun and the true spirit of sportsmanship.
I myself have been attending fairly regularly for the past year, never winning but sometimes coming close. I have made friends with people I would otherwise never have met and each time has been fun and enjoyable. As an added bonus I am now a lot more knowledgeable about various subjects, ranging from the adventures of Tintin to the Russian revolution.
The Drink Again! quiz is an excellent way to meet the locals in a non-scripted, non-touristy environment. No one is trying to sell you anything (although the bar likes it when you buy beer), entry is free, the people are friendly, the competition is fun and there is a nice prize for the winners. Seriously, who couldn’t use a case of beer?
Although the questions (and the answers!) are in Icelandic, the event is highly recommended for foreigners and locals alike. I have never bumped into a foreigner at these events, but hopefully that will change soon. It would be easy enough to perform the whole thing in English, should there be enough interest.