A mug is more than just something to hold a cold brew. The iconic beer stein, for instance, was developed using one part industrial progress and one part public health emergency.
The search for the proper drinking vessel goes back through the ages. It’s part utilitarianism and part ceremony.
The stein, with its sturdy handle and hinged lid, was legislated into beer drinking history during the 14th century. As the bubonic plague wiped out entire villages and infestations of flies swept across parts of modern day Germany, rulers decreed that drinking vessels should be covered. At around the same time advancements were being made in ceramics and stoneware was developed. These two factors combined to create the classic beer stein.
When it comes to beer drinking vessels, man has been tinkering and innovating for centuries. Sometimes, like with the stein, necessity has been the mother of invention. In other cases, style and taste have shaped what holds our beer.
What is true today is that right glass with the right beer makes the experience memorable.
The delicate thin-walled 0.2 liter stange delivers a fresh kölsch to your lips at just the right temperature. The tulip-shaped imperial pint captures the flavor and aromas of an extra special bitter. And the 1-liter masskrug is as much a part of the enjoyment of Oktoberfest as drindls or leiderhosen. Anyone who has ever been to Cologne, London or Munich knows the sensory pleasure of holding one of these glasses. They can transport you back to the place because they are as much a part of the experience as any cathedral, palace or museum is in these great cities.
Most beer drinkers have a favorite glass. Many have a few glasses that they use regularly depending on the beer being poured. The search for the proper drinking vessel goes back through the ages—it’s part utilitarianism and part ceremony. The clinking of glasses signifies friendship and goodwill. Over time beer has served to drive away evil spirits, celebrate reunions and seal business deals. The beer mug is more than a container: it is part of the experience.
How we got to the modern beer glass is a story that reflects our development over the centuries. What now might look quaint, or even barbaric at times, was something our ancestors accepted as the perfect way to hoist a brew.