To identify a German beer stein, look at the bottom of the stein and compare the markings on it with the marks of past and present German stein makers. Many steins are beautifully engraved and painted, making them part art and part pragmatism.
- Examine the stein closely
Take a close look at the bottom of your stein. There may be a date, a place name or a symbol.
- Note the information you find
Take note of any decipherable information on the bottom of the stein. Older stein marks may be difficult to make out due to wear and tear.
- Compare and contrast
Compare the marks on your stein with a comprehensive list of German stein makers' marks. These lists can be found with an online search.
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.