March 10, 2023
Steins: A Phenomenon of Necessity
Written By Rachel Gyarmati
We’re not sure about you, but we here at Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh love an excellent origin story. Today’s story is about the humble stein, that, for the record, is anything but.
Steins were initially brought about at the end of the 14th Century to combat the Bubonic Plague and the swarms of flies that would follow. At this time, it became law that drinks consumed in public be covered. We need to remember that this was cutting-edge medical technology at the time.
Stein’s use as a prevention against spreading germs makes it a surprisingly important invention. So, to honor our favorite drink vessel, we will dive into the nitty gritty of what makes the stein so iconic. We love them so much that we have a club for fellow stein enthusiasts!
Read on to gain knowledge that will make you a stein expert to your friends when you visit us next. We would also love to hear which of our Biers you think tastes the best when drinking from a stein.
So, What Is A Stein?
Technically speaking, a stein is a cup with the following characteristics:
- A handle to hold, which comes in handy during a drinking song with a good melody
- A lid with a hinge
- Hold 0.3 – 32 liters (1 ounce – 8.4 gallons)
- Display decor on them
The variation in the above characteristics makes a stein unique to its owner. For example, our steins hold one Liter or 33.81 ounces of our amazing Bier.
These variations, of course, add flair, value, and purpose to the humble stein. Here are some common points of individuality. We have a few features to consider if you’re considering customizing a stein of your own.
Conical: The lid goes up into a cone or steeple shape. This is the most common and cost-effective type of lid.
Flat: The shape is flat for the most part, making it perfect for engraving. Flat lids are often made of pewter.
Stoneware: A lid made out of stoneware and pewter fittings is used.
Ornamental: These lids are almost always made from pewter due to their flexibility.
- Most used lid for limited editions
- Exaggerated conical shape
- Finial: Figural representation or design on top
- Lots of detail and handiwork
Inlay: This is the fanciest (in our opinion) of the lids. It sports an actual stoneware figurine or ornament that is inlaid in the center of the cover.
- Pewter rim
- Pewter flange/lip
- The figurines can also be made of glass, porcelain, or wood.
- Thumb lifts and hinges
- It helps to date the stein
Pewter is the metal of choice for steins, but during and after the World Wars, this has changed to consider metal shortages. As a result, manufacturers brought in other metals to incorporate into stein finishes and fittings.
Choosing the proper lid and fittings can make your stein into something unique.
What’s Your Type?
We at Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh sport a simple stein that is easy to handle (get it?) and fun to drink out of. While stein collectors love these, two types of stein stand out from the rest.
- Created to honor those who complete military service
- Decorated with intricate and meaningful pewter and metalwork
- The cup will have depictions of battle and training
- A product of the Franco-Prussian War (1840 – 1871)
- Manufacturers did not date them until 1970
- Had their “Golden Era” from 1880 – 1910
- For 50 years, production was stopped due to a large fire.
- It is known for its grey glaze, but the stein will be white if made in Bavaria.
- Collectors love the intricate hand-painted and etched designs.
- They are so coveted that museums in Hamburg, Munich, The United States, Bonn, Amsterdam, and Zurich have extensive collections.
The fact that museums have entire collections of Metcalf steins is a testament to their worth.
Have Fun With It!
Now that we’ve learned the humble stein’s cultural, medical, and historical importance, let’s have fun! Around the world, Stein enthusiasts have found some fun ways to celebrate and compete.
Here in Pittsburgh, we celebrate our heritage with the Stein Masters Club. Customers can keep their personal stein here at Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh for a fee. Of course, we’re biased, but membership is the perfect gift for a Bier fan.
- Your own Personal Stein and Locker in Our Haus!
- EXCLUSIVE Stein Master Happy Hours featuring $7 Liters:
- Mon-Tues-Wed-Fri: 4-6PM
- Thurs: 8-10PM
- Sat-Sun: 2-4PM
- $1 Off all Liters any other time from 11AM-12AM
- $1 Off all individual crowlers (not applicable with other crowler discounts)
- A complementary liter of bier during your birthday month
- 20% off merchandise in our gift shop
- 2 entrée cards with a value of $15.89 each
- Access to EXCLUSIVE Stein Master Events and Giveaways
If you’re more of a competitor, we suggest bringing your Hofbräuhaus stein to a Stein holding competition!
Steinholding is a Bavarian strength contest with participants from around the world. While the event is international, countries do not compete with one another. The US Steinholding Association represents the United States.
The Rules: Competitors hold a full-liter stein with their arm of choice held straight out and parallel to the ground. The last one standing wins.
By the way, a full stein weighs five pounds. That may not seem like a lot, but this will feel super heavy over several minutes. These events are super fun and, as you can imagine, get pretty intense. There are, after all, world records to defend.
The Women’s United States Record was reached in 2022 by Taylor Handy at the New York City Oktoberfest. Her time was six minutes and ten seconds.
The United States Men’s Record was also set at the Oktoberfest in 2018. Michael Tyler held firm for an impressive 21 minutes and 17 seconds! Someone get that man (another) Bier!
All this talk of celebration and steins makes us nostalgic for the upcoming Spring. We can’t wait to hang out with you all in the Biergarten and maybe fill a stein or two. Prost!
Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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