Topic: Boston

Knight’s Quest at the Boston University Pub

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J. P. Schmelzer

The city of Boston is home to more than 50 colleges and universities, each churning out thousands of diplomas at graduation ceremonies every spring in recognition of noble scholastic achievement. Some Boston University graduates, however, are leaving school with a hard-earned appreciation of a subject other than Shakespeare or Socrates. In the basement of the campus’s Tudor Revival mansion, known as “The Castle,” the BU Pub has been offering an unofficial course to willing students since 1988 in the form of a “Knight’s Quest.”

Wondering what it takes to earn the title of Sir or Lady in a bustling 21st-century city? The answer is dedication, hard work–and a willingness to drink beer–50 different kinds of beer, in fact. Prospective knights of legal age are offered a list of the pub’s 60 craft-style brews, and their task is to sample 50 varieties–at a leisurely pace (they’re not allowed to finish the course in less than four weeks).

Since the tradition began, the BU Pub, which is open only to the university’s of-age students, faculty, staff, alumni, and invited guests, has knighted more than 1,800 participants. The official ceremony kicks off with a naming ritual, intoned by the bartender (with a little help from the newly knighted’s friends), whereupon the subject is presented with a commemorative glass. He or she is also given the honor of drinking out of a pewter tankard during any future visit to the pub.

Although an increased familiarity with beer is a collegiate rite of passage, only BU students are given the opportunity to refine their palates here by tasting dozens of different craft-style brews from around the world. Mary Roetzel, who completed her Knight’s Quest in 2000, says that her participation taught her more than just the art of drinking for sport. “It gave me a more refined palate for beer,” she says. “I now proudly consider myself something of a beer snob.”

And she’s not alone in her appreciation. After all, it was Shakespeare’s King Henry V who said, “I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety”–proving once again that when it comes to beer, we all raise a glass.


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