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A beer stein is a traditional mug made in Germany, most beer steins are made from German clay or glass, with pewter lids. However they can also be made from porcelain, wood, silver, crystal glass or stoneware. Most people will associate a German beer stein with the decorative carved clay mug with a hinged pewter lid or the glass tankards used at Oktoberfest.
Here at the German Village shop, we sell a range of decorative clay beer steins, made in the Westerwald area of Germany.
The direct translation for stein in English is stone, because of the traditional stone/clay that they are made from. But their technical name is Steinzeugkrug (Stoneware Jug), Bierkrug (Beer Jug) or just Krug (Jug). Oktoberfest tankards are also often referred to as Másskrug (Beer mug).
There is a long history about the steins, what they are made of and how they have evolved over the centuries. Which you can read about here. But lids did not start appearing on German steins until the Bubonic plague swept through Europe (in the 1300s), where insects appeared in their millions and attracted to the sweet smelling beer. The government decreed that all drinking establishments had to cover their stoneware with lids to prevent spread of disease.
As stated above, traditional steins can be made from many different types of stoneware, glass, porcelain, wood or crystal glass. However most associate the traditional style with the oven kilned clay, which is mined in Germany, carved and painted. It is coated with a glaze, inside and out (which allows it to be drunk from hygienically) then finished with a shaped pewter lid. The lid is melted to the stoneware with a hinge and thumb lift (to allow for one handed drinking).
Read more about how German Beer Steins are crafted in blog post ~ Click the button below!
Decorative beer steins have to be thick enough to engrave into, or use extra materials to build out from the thin layer of the “cup”. Clay itself is not light, and when you add the extra thickness plus a pewter lid, the weight does add up. The larger the stein or the more engraving and details, the more materials are required. Glass or clay, the German’s like their inventions to last, they are made to be durable and less likely to break. If you see a server carrying multiple full German steins at once, appreciate the arm strength it takes.
Firstly, yes, you definitely can drink from them. Click Here for our “How to take care of your German Beer Stein” pamphlet, which instructs on how to clean your stein and the drinks that are safe for the materials.
In Germany, clay steins are not nearly as common to drink from as glass open lidded steins, such as the Hofbrauhaus glass steins seen at Oktoberfest, but people still do. Steins became a more collectable item after glass blowing was invented, to signify a special occasion or achievement.
Read more about the History of Beer Steins in our blog post ~ Click the button below!
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Many people assume the lid on most beer steins was to keep beer colder. While this is a wonderful side effect, it was not originally designed for that (see reason above). The two main reasons why beer steins (glass or clay) keep beer colder is their design and materials. Steins are unique that they have a handle attached to the glass, this means that your hand does not touch the container and does not transfer heat into the beer, like a normal drinking glass. Also the thickness of the stein works as an insulator, to keep the beer at the poured temperature much longer. We definitely should be utilising the German ingenuity in our hot Australian summers. So if you’re asked; “Why use a beer stein?” “Because it keeps your beer cold”
How big is your stein? We sell a range of steins from 300ml to over 3L (you can also see the world’s largest beer stein in store – 12 Litres) However the standard stein you would drink from at Oktoberfest celebrations is roughly 2 pints (just over a litre). Be careful though, the amount poured into the stein isn’t always accurate.
Click the button below to view our range of Beer Steins of various sizes!
Unfortunately, this is not a straightforward answer, usually our answer is “it depends”. Beer steins have been made for hundreds of years from many different materials and from many different makers. Most of our beer steins are Limited Edition, made by reputable businesses within Germany, using only high quality materials. Therefore, they are worth more than “mass produced” beer steins, machine made or steins made outside of Germany. Significant makers in history or one-off steins are worth more to collectors due their rarity and collectability.
We get this question a lot. Many people inherit steins from their parents or grandparents without knowing their value. The best way to check any item’s value is to have it assessed by an independent estimator who has a background in drinkware, stoneware or Germany history. However, you can get rough estimates by checking whether your stein is a mass produced, or produced by a rare manufacturer by looking at the maker’s mark.
On the bottom of the stein should be engraved, stamped or inked with a symbol and/or letters. These symbols represent the company or maker of the individual stein. You can correspond the makers mark with the extensive range at http://www.steinmarks.co.uk/ they have put together a wonderful collection of European stein marks.
While most steins are made in Germany, there is a large market of machine made and mass produced replicas in the market. Most authentic German made beer steins will have “made in Germany” inked or engraved near the makers mark, but be aware that not all will, especially if they are older or independent makers.