By Craig Meyer
Standing under the sharp gaze of the ivory towers of academia, in the center of the Boston University campus, the BU Pub is something of an oasis, albeit one where beer, not water, is the drink of choice.
Appropriately enough for a dimly lit bar in the basement of The Castle on Bay State Road, the pub has its own Holy Grail for drinkers who have enough time, money and ambition – the Knight’s Quest.
The quest has long been a staple of the pub, with a simple challenge to all those who attempt it – drink all 50 beers on the quest’s list with a few stipulations, namely no more than four beers per day and in more than four weeks. Students, faculty and alumni are all eligible for the quest.
With more than 50 beers available, many of which are not the brand names commonly seen in bars across Boston and around the country, patrons appreciate the Knight’s Quest not only for the thrill of the challenge, but also as a way to try new beers, said BU Pub Manager Josh Brochu.
“It allows people to try different [beers] and experiment outside of what they probably regularly deal with if they go to places downtown like [The] Greatest Bar,” he said. “Sunset [Grill & Tap] has a lot of beers too, but they don’t have a plan in place where you can try all 50 beers and get rewarded at the end.”
Drinking 50 different beers may seem daunting to some, but knighthood at the pub does not come without its fair share of benefits.
Those who complete the quest receive a 20-ounce glass mug they can bring back to the pub to drink from at any point, a knight name and – perhaps most importantly – a knighting ceremony.
In the ceremony, a newly minted knight invites any number of friends for a night of free food and festivities. Brochu said the ceremonies are a major reason for the quest’s popularity.
“We have people that really look forward to their knighting ceremonies. They make it a huge deal – they put it on Facebook, they tell their friends,” Brochu said.
For BU College of Arts and Sciences senior Sean Hopkins, who is more than 30 beers into the quest, along with BU College of Communication junior Liz Rosenthal, who began the quest Tuesday, the ceremony is a principal incentive.
“I think the knighting is the best part,” Hopkins said. “I only know a couple of people that have done it. I don’t know what the benefits are, [but] I just think it’s a cool thing to do, being able to be knighted.”
The rewards of knighthood, however, do not come easily – many who begin the quest never complete it, Brochu said. About 200 people sign up every semester, he said, but only about 50 to 80 people are actually knighted in a given semester.
The difficulty of drinking 50 beers is often a reason for quest dropouts, but another common problem lies in the cost of the beers, students said. Beers at the pub range from $3 for such beers as Coors Light to $10 for The Chimay Blue Cap.
Alexander Mazurek, a CAS senior who finished the quest last semester, said he found the prices reasonable, adding that the quality of the beer is worth the extra cost.
“I’m one of these people who don’t believe that people should drink the lowest common-denominator beer,” Mazurek said. “Life’s really too short to be drinking cheap beer.”
And the rewards from completing the quest are not necessarily limited to its completion, he said – in fact, the journey itself can be just as fun as the destination.
“It’s not that hard – if you have the money to do it, you drink it,” Mazurek said. “It’s fun. What’s wrong with beer? It shouldn’t be a challenge, it’s a blast.”