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Maß is often used as an abbreviation for Maßkrug (plural: Maßkrüge), a one litre volume glass drinking vessel with a handle. This is frequently used in Bavarian beer gardens and beer halls and is a staple of Oktoberfest. It is often referred to as a beer stein or beer mug by English speakers.
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In the Southern German areas (Austro-Bavarian), the mug (Maß) originally measured 1.069 litres, equivalent to 2.259 US or 1.881 UK pints. Other German speaking areas had different measures: in Switzerland between 1838 and 1877 and in Baden until 1871 the Maß was 1.5 litres. The Maß is slightly larger than 1 litre to allow space for the beer head to form.
Since beer for immediate consumption is usually sold in smaller amounts, between 0.2–0.5 litres (7–20 US fl oz), in the more northerly parts of Germany, the Mass has mostly fallen out of use there, except for Bavarian-themed events.
Drinkware and souvenirs
A stoneware mug can be referred to as a "Humpen", "Steinkrug", or "Keferloher". A glass mug is referred to as a "Glaskrug" (glass mug). The glass mug (Glaskrug) is the mug most often used in beer gardens or at home. Many ceramic mugs (Steinkrüge) are designed for decorative use only. Old or collectible mugs (Maßkrüge) with lead-based firing glaze should not be used for drinking, as lead dissolves in ethanol, which may lead to lead poisoning. These types of drinkware are among the most common souvenirs brought back from German speaking countries.
Mugs are frequently decorated with a print of the sign of the brewery. On the upper end, a calibration mark is found to which the beer (not counting the foam) must be filled when served. Using mugs without a calibration mark, or with a mark that is below the true 1 litre position, is also prosecuted as fraud. A "Coalition against fraudulent pouring [of beer]" ("Verein gegen betrügerisches Einschenken") in Munich fights for the customer rights of beer drinkers, and is mostly active on the Oktoberfest.
Some beer gardens and restaurants have spaces they rent out to patrons where they can store their mugs. For a small monthly rent the establishment will wash one's mug and keep it safe until one's return. Sometimes the rent goes up with the prominence of the storage location. If a mug belongs to a person then often a lid made of tin is attached. These lids bear engravings, usually the initials of the person it belongs to and some engraving that gives a hint to the owners profession, wit or affections.
Origin and linguistics
The word "Maß" can be of either neuter or female grammatical gender. In its neuter form, das Maß, it is the German word for "measure". Its feminine version, "die Maß", is used in southern Germany and Austria to refer to a one litre beer mug or its contents. It is spelt "Maß" or "Mass" (both spellings are allowed) in Germany and Austria, "Mass" in Switzerland.
Maßkrugstemmen is an endurance competition that is gaining in notoriety during Oktoberfest season. It is holding a full mug of beer at arms length until there is a winner. There are a few rules:
- Do not spill the beer!
- The arm must be straight, no bent elbows.
- Your arm must be parallel to the ground and in front of your chest.
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