The stein, or steinkrug, is the epitome of masculine drinkware, despite being closely associated with lederhosen. This epic container is a ubiquitous classic—easy to recognize no matter how ornate or plain its exterior may be. From high culture to pop culture, you can find steins that commemorate anything from military victories to cartoon characters to your favorite sports team.
So what makes a stein, a stein? The lid. Necessity was the mother of this invention: Europe was repeatedly ravaged by reported swarms of flies. This problem led some German principalities to pass sanitary laws requiring all food and beverage containers to be covered. Since many early beer enthusiasts couldn’t devote two hands to removing a lid for each sip, a convenient hinge appeared to facilitate enjoyment of the beloved beverage with one hand. Perfect for pre-Renaissance darts!
Many antique steins, including the sought-after German Mettlach creations, are very collectible, fetching thousands of dollars from devoted enthusiasts. A mother-of-pearl-decorated stein recently sold for over $100,000. Other steins enjoy semi-celebrity status, like the fun and whimsical F.X. Matt/South End Brewing Company’s Utica Club Schultz and Dooley classic collection of characters, available at www.schultzanddooleyonline.com.