After the dinner crowd fades at Nick's English Hut, patrons begin to play a game that has become an IU tradition, Sink the Bismark. The game was originally played by members of the Bucket Brigade -- a group of mostly greek houses that owned buckets from which they drank beer. There were only 140 private buckets and the owners passed them down. Several years ago, Nick's purchased house buckets allowing greater participation for the once exclusive activity.
It is now almost a rite of passage and is particular to IU.
"It isn't found in other regions," 1996 alumna Mary Hardy says. "I live in Southern California and they've never heard of a Bismark."
Undergraduates as well as graduate students and parents play Sink the Bis, as it is affectionately known.
"It picks up during Parents Weekend and Graduation," long time bartender Tom McGlasson says. "It's a little different watching a 50-year-old man chug beer."
It is among the simplest drinking games. The rules vary by group but each game requires at least a bucket, floatable glass, at least three players (though preferably more), and beer. The bucket is filled with a pitcher of beer and a glass is placed in that beer. Players each have a glass of beer, which they pour into the floating glass until it sinks. A proper pour requires a steady hand, which dissipates through the night as participants become progressively intoxicated. The person who sinks the glass must remove the glass from the bucket and drink the beer in it. Nick's uses a 6-ounce highball glass for floating and a 48-ounce plastic-lined pail. At the end of each game, the loser must drink the bucket of now warm beer.
A group of students spent more than an hour intently concentrating on Sink the Bis on a Thursday night. Participant Josh Stickler eagerly explains the attraction to the popular game.
"You don't even need your buddies, you can just ask anyone in the bar and they'll play," Stickler says of the camaraderie that accompanies Sink the Bis. "Usually I come with a big group of people, but you can join a group and meet new people."
Stickler and his friends finished their game after a single pitcher and single bucket, but some groups have two or three buckets at a time. On any given Friday there may be around 20 buckets out in various stages of the game.