Mike Dries has a knack for recalling—and imparting—information. The 32-year-old Charlotte native teaches second grade at St. Patrick Catholic School by day, but on Tuesday nights you can find him hosting Taproom Trivia at Sugar Creek Brewing. While the two gigs couldn’t seem more different, they actually require a similar amount of preparation, research, and committing details to memory. This month SouthPark caught up with the Taproom Trivia host to find out why Tuesday nights at Sugar Creek Brewing has become such an institution.
How do you make the transition from teacher to trivia host each week?
I have a big-kid-at-heart mentality, which helps with both teaching and trivia. I always knew I wanted to do something with kids. But after a full day of teaching second graders, it’s nice to have some adult conversation, too. The brewery has taken me in like family, and it’s been an incredible ride so far.
When did trivia first become a hobby for you?
In high school I fell in with a group of friends who really loved pop culture. For some reason my brain held on to that stuff much more than what I was learning in school. We’d go to trivia night at Mellow Mushroom, and when I came home from college that’s what always brought us back together. We started going to trivia night at Dilworth Neighborhood Grill to see a friend of my sister’s host, and one night she asked me to fill in for her. I subbed for her on and off for about a year, and that’s where I started honing my own trivia rounds.
How did you land your gig as the taproom trivia host at Sugar Creek Brewing?
The cousin of Sugar Creek’s brewmaster is a good friend. They knew I was into the craft beer scene in Charlotte. I would go there to hang out, and they mentioned they wanted to get more people in on weeknights. So in early 2015 we started hosting Taproom Trivia every Tuesday night from 7 to 9.
Describe your role as Taproom Trivia Host and what a typical Tuesday night entails.
I always have five rounds with 10 questions each. The first round is music and the fourth one is a picture round. We offer prizes for the first and fourth rounds—it’s usually one flight of beer per team. I always end with a final jeopardy question, and the top three teams get a gift card to the brewery. I have about 10 or 11 teams that are loyal regulars every week, and about 20 teams in total on a typical Tuesday night.
Where do you find inspiration for new trivia themes?
I ask for audience requests and suggestions at the end of every trivia night, and I listen to the “Ask Me Another” podcast on NPR for new ideas—I’m careful to give credit where credit is due. I get ideas by reading magazines or listening to the radio. Recently I heard Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” which inspired a round of songs with body parts. I’ll be driving around and an idea will come to me, like doing a round about famous foursomes, or a slogan round. I try to write it down as quickly as I can and flesh it out later. My trivia file folder comes with me everywhere.
How have you increased your following so much in the last three years?
Social media has played a huge part in promoting Taproom Trivia. In January I started filming musical commercial parodies and posting them to Instagram and Facebook. In March we started doing one theme night each month. So far we’ve done Harry Potter, Disney, and How I Met Your Mother. It takes me a few weeks to prepare for those because we get people who are experts on those subjects. We also did an Everything Charlotte Trivia Night last summer.
Why do you think trivia night has become such an essential part of Charlotte’s nightlife?
For a long time people typically went out on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, but I think the craft beer scene has opened that up because now people are going out earlier in the week. Everyone is competitive in some way, and trivia is a nice break from sitting down at a bar to vent about work. You get to put your mind on something else. With so many young people moving here, it’s an easy way to meet other people your own age in a nonthreatening way. It’s not speed dating and it’s not networking—it’s just a fun way of getting together.