Steins date back as early as the 14th century. In the early 16th century Germany made several laws requiring that all food and beverage containers be covered. The reason for this was because of the Bubonic Plague and the mass quantities of flies that swarmed the country. So they started putting a lid, hinge and even a thumblift on their drinking containers for easy access. This also helped to keep the liquid at a constant temperature.
Around this time most all steins were made from earthenware. They started Beer Steinraising the firing temperature to improve the quality of these steins. By doing this, it made the steins much more durable and moisture-free. They called this “stoneware” because of it’s durability. Hence, stoneware became very popular in Germany and artists started applying their creations and artwork to them.
Guilds were popular during this time in Germany. The Pewter Guild started the look we are all familiar with now – the stoneware stein with the permanently attached pewter lid. By the 19th century the Stein was clearly defined as being made in Europe and primarily of stoneware with a permanently attached pewter lid.
Pewter was not only used for lids, but also for the entire stein. Pewter was preferred throughout Europe, mostly in England. Glass, porcelain and silver steins came out several hundred years ago and are still available today.
Still today, steins are primarily produced in Germany where they continue to train their employees in the same way using century old traditions.
Below is a list of the materials you will most likely find Steins made of and their characteristics:
- Earthenware: Porous ware until it is glazed.
- Ceramic: Slightly porous and light colored. Must be glazed to make it impermeable (impossible to penetrate)
- Creamware: This is light earthenware with a lead glaze.
- Stoneware: Hard material. Fired at very high temperatures with the result being less than 2% porous. Glaze is not mandatory for a Stein made from stoneware.
- Porcelain: These are made of Kaolin (white clay) and Pentanes (pulverized granite). When these are fired, the result is more of a white or translucent, glass like material
Which one is best? Good question! It all depends on your personal preference. Metals like silver and pewter are good thermal conductors so they will keep a beer cold for a shorter time. Glass is also a good thermal conductor but a bit better than metal. Pottery on the other hand is probably your best choice at keeping beer cold.