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How do you identify German beer steins?

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Quick Answer

A German beer stein is a beverage container complete with a hinged lid and handle that is designed specifically for drinking beer. They are usually characterized as being larger and sturdier than traditional pint glasses, mugs or other forms of drinkware.

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Full Answer

The word "stein" itself is German, and comes as a shortened, colloquial form of the word "Steinzeugkrug," which is a stoneware jug or tankard. In modern usage, stein refers to most any beer container, but a traditional German beer stein would most likely be identified by both a long handle and a hinged lid, in addition to a thicker material construction than many other drinking containers.

The important distinction to be made between a classic mug and a German beer stein is the hinged lid, which was first created as a sanitary measure to protect German drinkers from insects and disease during the bubonic plague. Traditionally, the hinged lid is operated by a simple lever known as a thumblift, which allows drinkers to hold the stein and open and close the lid with one hand.

From a material standpoint, German beer steins can be crafted from any number of substances, though the most popular are wood, stone, glass and metal, particularly silver.

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