Beer stein (// US dict: stīn), or simply stein, is an English neologism for either traditional beer mugs made out of stoneware, or specifically ornamental beer mugs that are usually sold as souvenirs or collectibles. In German, the word Stein means stone and is not used to refer to a beverage container. Such Steins may be made out of stoneware (rarely the inferior earthenware), pewter, porcelain, or even silver, wood or crystal glass; they may have open tops or hinged pewter lids with a thumb-lever. Steins usually come in sizes of a half litre or a full litre (or comparable historic sizes). Like decorative tankards, they are often decorated in a nostalgic manner, but with allusions to Germany or Bavaria. It is believed by some that the lid was implemented during the age of the Black Plague, to prevent diseased fleas from getting into the beer.
Stein is an abbreviation of German Steingut "stoneware", the common material for beer mugs before the introduction of glass. The word alone is not used within Germany, rather "Krug" or "Steinkrug" are used.
The word stein could have also originated from the German word Steinzeugkrug, meaning stoneware jug or tankard. By common usage, stein refers to a beer container with a handle and hinged lid.
In the latter half of the 19th century, stein makers found different advantages within the different materials. The advantage in using stoneware to make steins was that molds could be used to mass-produce elaborately carved steins. In using glass, not only could one produce multiple glass mugs, but an artistic touch could add to the glass by including acid etchings, glass staining, or even multicolored overlays. Porcelain's advantage was that a stein fabricator could use molds to make "character steins", steins that had a particular shape modeled after an item or a person.
Throughout the 1900s, collecting antique and replicated beer steins became very popular hobby not only among individual people, but in museums as well. Production of beer steins has become substantially large in America, but the largest producer of beer steins is Ceramarte of Brazil.
The most traditional area of beer stein production is the Westerwald region in Germany called "Kannenbaeckerland". This unique German potters region has been creating beer steins for centuries and is famous among the collectors as the original German beer stein producer.
Beer steins were made primarily with pewter in many areas across Europe (primarily in England), but many steins were known to be made of glass, porcelain, and silver as well. Steins have also been known to have been made out of wood, earthenware, and crystal.
Ordinary German beer mugs have been made out of glass for hygienic reasons since the introduction of glass mugs to the 1892 Oktoberfest. Modern beer mugs, except again decorative or luxury versions, do not have a lid.
Beer mugs (0.5 and 1 litre) are typical for beer gardens and especially the Oktoberfest, where they are popular for their robustness. In other settings, 0.33 and 0.5 litre beer glasses are also popular.
Other forms and synonyms
In German-speaking regions beer mugs may be known as:
- Bierkrug ("beer mug")
- Maßkrug or Maß (for a one-litre beer mug)
- Adlerhumpen, a tall drinking glass sometimes with covers enamelled with the double eagle of the Holy Roman Empire
- Seidel or Seidla (Franconia, ½ litre). The term "Seidel" is also used by the Deitsch in the Deitscherei.
- Schoppen (Palatinate, ½ litre)
- Keferloher, the traditional (but non-embellished) stoneware beer mug, named after the village of Keferloh near Munich where they were originally produced
Considered collectible are traditional designs such as brewery emblems, Bavarian motifs such as Neuschwanstein or the Marienplatz Rathaus-Glockenspiel of Munich, and the colorful official annual Oktoberfest souvenir mug featuring the year's winning poster design.
The use of beer mugs is uncommon in most parts of Northern and Central Germany, and in these regions considered a Bavarian specialty.
Although they have long gone out of fashion, the lids on beer mugs serve as a sanitary measure especially to keep insects out of the beer. They are usually made out of pewter, and are usually equipped with a lever that is in reach of the thumb, so that it is possible to grab the mug and open and close the lid with a single hand (if one can hold the weight, that is).
These days beer mats are usually used to cover the glass or mug when required.
Beer stein commemorating Milwaukee City Hall.
Beer stein at the Modelo Museum of Science and Industry in Toluca, Mexico
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beer steins.|
- How Beer Steins are produced, a BeerSteinsInternational factory tour on how German Beer Steins are produced
- A Brief History of Beer Steins, an article from a collector's website, taken from The Beer Stein Book: a 400 Year History (ISBN 1-889591-00-9)
- Stein Marks provides a database to determine the provenance of any stein.
- Art Nouveau influence in beer stein production, Typical examples of Westerwald "Art Nouveau" beer steins.
- The all time famous "Trompeter von Säckingen" beer steins, Stein examples from the poem written in 1885 by J. Viktor von Scheffel.
- The Worldwide largest beer stein, Worldwide largest beer stein examples.
- The Battle of Teutoburg, Peter Duemler stein form design.
- Facts and Tales, Stoneware related topics from the "Kannenbaeckerland".