While I was helping my mom clean up her house the other day, we found a Bierkrug that was lost and forgotten behind a bunch of wine bottles – I know, the beer mug must have felt offended. Unfortunately for her (I mean, the beer, not the mom!), she ended up making a long trip from Germany to Brazil to be retired: nobody in this house drinks any beer.
What´s the point for this mug violence then, you might ask? The thing is that these Bierkrugs, also known as Bierstein or Maßkrug (that´s actually how I first learned its name in German), are beautiful decoration items indeed. The traditional ones are made out of stone, pewter, porcelain, wood or silver, and are beautifully handcrafted and hand painted. The motifs are normally German historic scenes, famous touristic sights or emblematic coat of arms from a city or a region. My mother´s, for example, portrays the beautiful Herrenchimsee Palace, the Neuschwanstein castle and the Linderhof castle, all in Bavaria. These are the 3 castles commissioned by Ludwig the II, known as “the fairytale king”.
I could endlessly talk about these castles, but I will leave it to another post! Going back to the alcohol!
Nowadays these traditional German beer mugs can be found in many souvenir shops and, though you might have judged me at the beginning, yes, most of these mugs are sold as purely ornamental items. Nobody will judge you if you do feel like enjoying a real German beer in it though! They are functional after all with a pewter lid lifted by a thumb-lever. The idea of the lid is to keep the beer fresh and clean. But beware! The mugs come in half a liter or a full liter size. Germans do not spare beer. * slurp slurp *
Even though you are likely to find the Maßkrug everywhere in Germany, the original ones come from Kannenbackerland, on the west side of the country near the city of Koblenz. These ones should have a stamp on the bottom telling you it is made in Germany and from which producer. My mom´s, for example, comes from Thewalt – a potter and beerstein family company since the 18th century (the mugs´ production has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries). There are still many beer mugs being sold today from their 19th century molds. You are not just buying a beer mug, my friend! You are buying culture and history.
If you got interested, you can buy the Bierkrugers online in websites like GermanSteins and Oktoberfesthaus in the US, or Käthe Wohlfahrt and Josef Machhaus in Germany. Prices vary a lot: the simplest ones will cost you from 10 to around 30 euros, while the most ornamented can range from 40 to…..who knows – there are many collection items after all. But I, myself, have seen prices up to 255 euros.
I actually find it a great souvenir to bring back from a trip to Germany. After visiting some famous places, you can actually choose your mug based on your favorite region or landmarks. Ours is from a souvenir shop on the bottom of the jaw-dropping Neuschwanstein Castle, and now that it has been upgraded from a dust collector to a premier spot on a shelf, it will bring back sweet memories from a not-so-alcoholic trip!