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Beer stein

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Stoneware beer steins

A beer stein (/ˈstn/ STYNE), or simply stein, is either a traditional beer mug made out of stoneware or specifically an ornamental beer mug sold as a souvenir or collectible. An 1894 article on beer mugs in the American Vogue magazine that describes various types of steins stated: "And it is to this [i.e. German] nation that we owe Wagner's music and the apotheosis of the beer mug."[1]

Such steins may be made out of stoneware, 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 with allusions to Germany.


A typical half-litre German Humpen (beer mug)

The English word is attested from 1855.[2] It is borrowed from German Stein, which has – aside from its prevailing meaning "stone" – elder regional meanings "beer mug"[3][4] and "beer measure of 1 litre or 2 Schoppen".[5][6]

The word can be compared to Old English stæne "pitcher, jug".[7]

The word Stein alone is not used any more to refer to a beverage container in standard German; rather, Krug, Humpen or, especially in Bavaria and Austria, Seidel are used. Oktoberfest usage is Maßkrug.


It is believed by some that the hinged lid was implemented during the age of the Black Plague to prevent diseased flies from getting into the beer.[8] This is unlikely to be true, as contemporaries did not know fleas spread the disease. Instead, the prevailing belief was that it was spread through dangerous “miasmas”.

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 collecting antique and replicated beer steins became a very popular hobby not only among individual people, but in museums as well. Production of beer steins has become substantial in America, but the largest producer of beer steins is Ceramarte of Brazil.[8]

The most traditional area of beer stein production is the Kannenbäckerland in the Westerwald region in Germany. 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.[citation needed]


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.[9][10] Steins have also been known to have been made out of wood, earthenware, and crystal.[8][9]

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.

Attempts[11] to replace beer mugs made from glass or earthenware by ones made from plastic (for security reasons) have been variously met with protests, even burnings[12] of mugs and were never successful in the long or even medium term in Germany.

The lid[edit]

The lids on beer mugs serve as a sanitary measure, especially to keep insects out of the beer.[8] 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.

These days beer mats are usually used to cover the glass or mug when required.

Other forms and synonyms[edit]

An unusually large German beer stein with a 32-liter (8.45 U.S. gal) capacity that weighs 16 kilograms (35 lb) when empty

In German-speaking regions beer mugs may be known as:

  • Bierkrug ("beer mug")
  • Maßkrug or Maß (for a one-litre beer mug)
  • Humpen
  • Adlerhumpen, a tall drinking glass sometimes with covers enamelled with the double eagle of the Holy Roman Empire
  • Seidel or Seidla (Franconia, 12 litre). The term Seide is also used by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
  • Schoppen (Palatinate, 12 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.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vogue. Condé Nast Publications. 1894. pp. 2–.
  2. ^ "Definition of STEIN". www.merriam-webster.com. 5 September 2023.
  3. ^ Duden online Stein, meaning #9
  4. ^ Pfälzisches Wörterbuch Stein, meaning #5b
  5. ^ Deutsches Wörterbuch stein, meaning #II-C-1-c
  6. ^ Pfälzisches Wörterbuch Stein, meaning #5c
  7. ^ "Origin and meaning of stein by Online Etymology Dictionary".
  8. ^ a b c d Kirsner, Gary (1999). "A Brief History of Beer Steins". Archived from the original on 3 June 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009.
  9. ^ a b "German Beer Stein History".
  10. ^ "Beer Stein History".
  11. ^ "Empörung in München: Oktoberfest in Plaste". Der Spiegel. 6 March 2005 – via Spiegel Online.
  12. ^ Rundfunk, Bayerischer (17 May 2018). "Bergkirchweih Erlangen: Der Berg ruft - BR.de".

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