Why a Beer Stein Belongs in Your Camping Gear

published Jul 14, 2016
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(Image credit: Brittany Keats Cerullo)

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: You want me to carry heavy stone jugs with me when I camp? Hauling beer steins when you have to hike for miles to a campsite may prove to be an additional challenge you don’t want to conquer, but if you’re only walking a short distance to a campsite or if you’re car camping (or picnicking or eating al fresco in your backyard — you get the idea), you may want to consider bringing a few of these go-to German souvenirs along. Here’s why the beer stein is the MVP of outdoor drinking.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Beer steins have taken many forms: glass, wood, pewter, and most commonly, stone. Hence, the word “stein,” which means “stone.” They first appeared in 14th-century Germany along the Rhine River, a region known for its clay deposits, and the stoneware containers quickly became an almost-required accessory.

So, why are antique shops filled with them? And why do we let them languish on shelves instead of making use of them? Who can say, but it’s time to take this tchotchke out of retirement and use it to its fullest potential.

3 Reasons Why a Beer Stein Belongs in Your Camping Gear

1. It keeps the flies and the foliage out.

Beer steins came into the world during the time of the Bubonic Plague and, as a result of the deadly epidemic, Germany mandated that beverage containers must be covered for sanitary purposes. Conical tops with thumb levers (usually made of pewter) topped the beer steins, keeping flies and their associated diseases out.

While it’s true the plague isn’t flying around anymore, I still often find the unsavory carcasses of mosquitoes and gnats (and once a wasp) floating in my drink while imbibing outside. Most campsites I’ve been to are also covered in a lush canopy of trees. And even more often than the bugs, I find foliage debris in my drink.

Enter: the beer stein’s conical top with thumb lever! You can enjoy your campsite beverage without the nuisance of choking on acorns and you won’t be responsible for the death of spiny and/or winged creatures. (Also, you won’t get the Bubonic Plague.)

2. It keeps your drink cool (or hot).

The stone body of the beer stein was designed to keep beverages cool, but this durable drinking vessel will also keep your beverage of preference hot. In other words, not only will it keep your beer frosty, it will also keep your hot cocoa or coffee toasty.

3. You’ll always know which drink is yours.

Historically decorated with enamel and glaze artwork and often painted in relief, beer steins are known for their elaborate designs. Initially the markings represented place of origin; small towns had their own trademarks. Later, family crests and depictions of historical events covered the stoneware. Regimental beer steins were created with the names and ranks of their owners etched into them. It was the olden-day version of a name tag in your clothing at summer camp.

What that means for you: At your campsite or party, you won’t have to guess whose drink is whose. Assign yourself a particular design or take up Heinrich’s mug, and know that you won’t confuse your beverage with someone else’s. Bonus: Making up stories to go with your mug’s design makes for a fun round-the-campfire game. Prost!

Have I convinced you to dust off your beer stein and put it to use?