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What is a Character Stein?

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A character stein (also referred to as a figural stein) is a stein with a shape designed to represent an object, person, or animal. It's a style category as opposed to a materials category.

Frog Character SteinAlthough figural vessels date back to several centuries before the
Greeks, true character steins had to await the development of the hinged lid, in the early 1500's. There are stoneware character steins that date from about that period, generally in the form of owls or seated bears, but they are quite rare. One can only speculate as to why there are so few character steins that predate the late 1800's. A popular theory is that the demand for whimsical, odd-shaped vessels did not warrant the manufacturers' attention until the late 1800's. Another theory is that there was just too much effort required to produce these "statuettes" before the introduction, in the late 1800's, of molds that could more easily accommodate such shapes, such as slip molds.

Some of the character steins that appeared around the 1850's were bisque porcelain pieces that were made by E. Bohne Soehne of the Thueringen region of Germany. This factory, along with others in Plaue, are believed to be responsible for much of the initial manufacture of character steins.

While many character steins are made of porcelain, there are also other important materials. Next to porcelain, the most common is stoneware. Pewter and various other kinds of ceramic round out the character stein materials that are occasionally encounted.

*Courtesy of The Beer Stein Book

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