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German Steins

Nothing sings of the gregarious German culture more than the ceramic stein. A symbol of revelry and rowdy drinking, the German stein is also a piece of history, with its origins dating back to the days of the Black Death.

In the 14th century, when the Bubonic Plague broke out and began ravaging western European populations, those who wished to thwart the disease began developing measures to increase sanitation. One of these measures was to add lids or covers to drinking vessels. This trend became law in Germany by the early years of the 16th century, resulting in development of a hinged lid for mugs and tankards.

At the same time, ceramists also began experimenting with stoneware, fired at extreme temperatures to create a more durable vessel. Such was the combination of factors that gave birth to the stein. This vessel has remained relatively unchanged to the present day, save for the level of decoration on the exterior. From family crests to souvenir scenes, German stein pottery comes adorned with a variety of motifs that will compel almost any collector.

Quick Facts

  • "Stein" is actually a truncation of the German word "steinzeugkreug," which roughly translates to "stoneware tankard"
  • Before the popularity of ceramic vessels, many beer drinking mugs were crafted from wood. This proved problematic, as the natural porosity of wood meant that the stench of old beer would linger long after drinking
  • Stoneware stein tankards were considered a symbol of status in the 16th century, as they were without a doubt a pricey investment

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