A UNIQUE night out which promises stand-up comedy, informed discussion, free drinks and a pub quiz is all packaged together in the offering from the Thinking Drinkers which will be hitting theatres around the region next month.

The Thinking Drinkers Pub Quiz will be heading to Colne Muni and Oldham Coliseum and sees two award-winning writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham share their love of drink over a glass or two of something special with every member of the audience.

“The most common question we get asked is ‘what is it that you are actually going to do?,” said Tom. “Although many people who come out don’t know what to expect by the end they all seem to have had a really good time.”

Ben and Tom are genuine drinks experts. Ben has been named Beer Writer of the Year three times and Tom is an IWSC Spirits Communicator of the Year. But their show is as far removed from the perceived elitist world of wine tastings as it’s possible to get.

“We did a few of those tastings and they were a bit dull so we decided to build a bit of comedy into them,” said Tom. “We took this theatrical concept to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 and it went down really well and since then it has continued to evolve.”

The show revolves around five different drinks ranging from an artisan gin to a Venezuelan rum. Every theatregoer is given a goodie bag as they arrive with the five drinks in plus glasses which they will taste during the show. There is also a quiz sheet and pencil.

“We tell people a little more about each drink and of course we ask them to try them,” said Tom. “But beyond that we have stories about the people who made it, the history and social context along with some stupid costumes and then there’s the pub quiz too. Somehow it all hangs together.”

Ben added: “Things have changed massively since we started doing show. As people have become more curious and started to question the things they eat and where it comes from, the same is happening with drink. People are realising that there is more to alcohol than just the effect it creates.

“Our whole message in the show is to drink less and drink better and people are thirsty for knowledge.

“We do supply that cultural and historical context and arm them with some wonderful pub ammo to take down their local and impress their mates.

“I suppose the show is like QI combined with drink.”

“Oh and we dress in monkey costumes at one point too,” added Tom helpfully.

“There is no way our show could ever be called pretentious or snobby that’s for sure,” said Ben. “We became disillusioned by some tastings where you would have some expert effectively telling you what to drink and that what you normally had was rubbish.

“We’re just offering a few things to try and telling audiences more about them and having a lot of fun along the way.”

A key element of the show is the quiz which runs throughout the evening.

“There are five different rounds and the answers are in what we say. We’re quite pleased that we have engineered an evening where people have to listen to us!" said Tom. "And we’ve tried to make it as puerile and amusing to us as we can.

“There are prizes but I don’t think anyone a should treat it as a serious pub quiz, we’re all there to have some fun.”

You might have thought that a show which gives an audiences drinks during a performance would be hated by venues as no-one would venture to the bar in the interval.

“That was the initial fear,” said Tom, “but it turns out that our audiences have realised that they enjoy a drink and can’t wait to get to the bar.”

But the show is not just for those who enjoy a drink.

“We have people come who don’t have a great relationship with alcohol and who are trying not to drink,” said Tom. “It’s rewarding for us that they feel comfortable in that environment and don’t have to have a drink and yet they have enjoyed the show. We’ve also had pregnant women at the shows, often there are folk who are driving. You don’t have to have a drink to enjoy it.”

Both Ben and Tom are conscious of the tough times both theatres and pubs are having post Covid.

“There is an irony that we are talking about drinks in a theatre to people who might be in the pub,” said Ben, “but we are trying to coax people out of their homes where they can watch their big TV and have a drink from the supermarket.

“Drinking is a social thing and we prove that in the stories we tell. You can have a great time in both a theatre and the pub and even if you don’t want to have a drink you shouldn’t be excluded from that experience.”

The show clearly has a way of connecting with its audience.

“We have one couple who actually met at our show and have subsequently got married,” said Ben, “so if we have achieved nothing else we brought them together.”

The Thinking Drinkers Pub Quiz, Colne Muni, Friday, March 10, details from www.themuni.co.uk and Oldham Coliseum, Saturday, March 11, details from www.coliseum.org.uk