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Beer Steins History
The origins of steins date back to the 14th century. As a result of the bubonic plague and several invasions of flies throughout Europe shortly thereafter, Germany established several
laws in the early 16th century requiring that all food and beverage containers be covered to protect their contents. By combining a lid, hinge, and thumblift, these 'German' containers could easily be opened and
closed with one hand.
About this time many efforts were also made to improve the earthenware
material used for steins. By raising the firing temperature, clay was vitrified into a solid, moisture-free, stone-like material called stoneware. Because this new
material was much more durable than the previous earthenware, steins made of stoneware became very popular and many different types of designs and decorations were artistically applied to them.
The guild system was firmly entrenched in European society at this time. The pewter guild, combined with the heightened awareness for hygiene among food
containers, created an environment in Germany that would ensure the presence of permanently attached pewter lids on stoneware drinking vessels for the next
300 years. By the end of the 19th century, the stein was clearly defined as being made in Europe, primarily of stoneware and primarily with a permanently attached pewter lid.
The history of steins includes the development and introduction of several different materials other than stoneware. Pewter was not
only used for lids, but also as a primary body material. It was the material of choice throughout large areas of Europe and particularly popular in England. Glass, porcelain and silver steins
were introduced several hundred years ago as well and are all still available today.
Many stein-decorating styles and techniques were developed over
the centuries, offering further diversity to this creative, historical, artistic, and ever-evolving gift item.
Today, the stein and tankard industry remains primarily represented by those factories in Germany and England who are from the original regions where history has
demonstrated the industry to have been founded. Centuries-old traditions continue to train the skilled hands and eyes that are required to create these steins. We are proud to feature the works of these authentic factories and industry leaders in our catalog.
For more comprehensive information:
Beer Stein Book, Beer Steins Guide