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Few ceremonies at Boston University rival the conviviality of one held in the basement of the Castle several times a semester. Employing a sword and pewter mugs, it brings packs of friends to the BU Pub to celebrate the men and women who have earned the title Knight of the BU Pub by imbibing 50 types of a liquid so delicious that an ancient Egyptian king chose to be buried with it.
The Knight’s Quest, a BU tradition since 1988, has been conquered by more than 1,800 students, faculty, staff, and alumni, all of whom have devoted serious time, energy, and money to educate themselves on the different types of beer.
“It’s one of those things that everyone talks about, but few people actually accomplish,” says Emily Paccione (COM’13), who began the quest in January 2012, when she turned 21, and finished it eight months later. “The quest was on my BU bucket list.”
BU Pub manager Josh Brochu estimates that 200 people start the quest every semester, but only half manage to finish the requisite 50 beers, sometimes because they decide to drink only the beers they like and sometimes because of the steep monetary commitment (most beers range from $5 to $12). Another deterrent for some is the quest’s written-in-stone rules: imbibers must be over 21, they are limited to two beers per day and no more than two drinks per hour, and the quest cannot be completed in fewer than 12 weeks.
For those who accept the challenge, the Knight’s Quest is just another way to join the BU Pub’s community, says Brochu, who may have the most coveted job on campus: choosing the beers carried by the pub.
“I like the quest because the bartenders get to know you,” Brochu says, “and they love explaining the beers and educating people about beer and the different types to try.” Besides the quest, the pub has karaoke, trivia, and game nights.
To begin, prospective knights sign up for the quest at the bar and put their John Hancock on the rules sheet. A Rolodex card keeps track of the beers they drink, and the list of available beers changes about twice a semester, with new seasonal brews added.
The quest is not just about quaffing quality beers. It’s intended to educate people about beer and expose them to new beers from all over the world. They range from the conventional—Sam Adams Seasonal and Coors Light—to the more adventurous, with names like Sixpoint Bengali Tiger, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, and the Harpoon Leviathan series.
Dan Plucinsky (CAS’13), who was knighted last semester, says education was a big reason he started the quest. “You try beers that you probably wouldn’t try if they weren’t on the list,” Plucinsky says. “There are lots of local beers and beers from around the world. It’s an achievement to be able to say that you’ve tried so many different types of beer and know what’s out there.”
In addition to getting to know various types of beers, Domenic Dion (CAS’13) is glad to be a knight because it gives him a reason to spend time at the Pub. “A lot of people come here between classes,” Dion says, “or come here to do work. It’s a good place to study. It has a chill atmosphere.”
Knighting ceremonies are held on Thursday and Friday nights, starting at 7 p.m. with knights-to-be drinking two bartender’s choice drinks. Prospective knights are encouraged to invite friends, who also have work to do. It’s their job to come up with potential names for the would-be knight, who will kneel before the bartender as he reads the list of names the friends have suggested. The one with the most applause—and often the most embarrassing—is the one that sticks. Dante Smith (ENG’12, MED’18), a knight since spring 2011, earned the name Sir Magic the Gathering, Girls the Leaving, but many names are not suitable for publishing.
At this point the new knight is given a personalized glass and may drink out of a pewter tankard during any future visit to the pub.
Stella Shalita (COM’14) started the quest in October 2012 and was knighted in May, wearing a fur coat her friends brought and using a personalized sword. “It was a big deal for us,” she says with a laugh. “The pub is one of my favorite parts of BU, because on any different day you’ll see your friends, Dean Elmore, maybe a professor. The Knight’s Quest just furthers the sense of community here.”