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Wednesday Beer Blog: History of Beer Glasses

Hello Beer Friends,

I have been wanting to do a blog entry on beer glasses for a while. I decided to start out with a history of the original beer receptacles: steins and tankards.

Now, some of you may be going “whoa this chick is silly because clearly people were drinking beer long before then”, and you’d be right in part. However I wanted to write about the first for-beer-specifically beverage container, which is, for all intents and purposes, the tankard and stein combination.

I found a really intriguing article on Scientific American’s Blog that went over the history of beer glasses. I also found a Wikipedia page on Beer Glasses, as well as a BeerStein blog about them, and a Beer Advocate entry to finish my collection of research pages off! Whew!

So to summarize everything I learned and share the love of knowledge…and for the record anything incorrect is solely on me here!

In the late 1300s this horrible event happened that you may have heard of called The Black Plague. This horrible decades-long epidemic wiped out over 30% of Europe’s population, and highlighted quite clearly for all to see how cleanliness could actually save your life.  Because of this, some countries, like Germany, decided to wise up and get clean. German brewers were not allowed to use spoiled products to make beer anymore, and German authorities passed laws that made it mandatory to have lids or covers on all food and beverage containers. This was in hopes of keeping out the flies that were purported to have carried The Plague.

Thus the birth of the Tankard and Stein. Tankards were traditionally made out of wood, wrapped with leather or iron, and were cheaper and thus more prevalent across all levels of society. Steins were traditionally made of pewter or stone, and contained more design to them, making them more expensive and accessible mostly to the upper classes.

Over time, there were advances made in making stonewear, allowing for more sanitary Tankards to be available to the general public. The wooden and earthenware ones retained the smell and bacteria of the beers, but luckily also broke easily so were needing to be replaced often enough they don’t think this caused too much of an issue. Also, the pewter at the start of steinsbecame just as hazardous because of the lead included in the pewter metal, quite obviously a poison and thus dangerous. Over time this was also addressed and fixed so that the pewter was no longer a danger. The highest social classes also used silver, glass and porcelain in their custom steins.

Steins became a mark of social standing, including family crests, guild crests and other custom designs on them to show your worth. This became the thing to do, and doubled as being more healthy for the drinkers. Germany’s standards spread throughout Europe and eventually created a new economic field that flourished for the next couple hundred of years, between the Steins and the new way of producing beer.

Currently, tankards and steins are still used, and created with a variety of materials as well as designs. The original lid is no longer quite so important, however is usually included in new productions of these drinkwares to retain the look – though not always.

Here are some pretty cool tankards and steins I found:

Craft You Later,
Beth

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Leave a comment

3 Comments

  1. please take a look at my website http://www.lockthegrain.co.uk. I specialise in hand turning beer tankards…..

    Reply
  2. great post

    Reply

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