We're far more interested in what's inside our beer glassware than its design, but that hasn't stopped us from filling up our cabinets with all manner of serving vessels for our favorite libations. In many cases, glassware has developed in tandem with beer styles and drinking particular beers gains an added dimension when you drink the right beer out of the right glass. Though some glass designs have developed only to achieve a certain visual aesthetic there's usually more to the story. Most glassware features specific traits that highlight the unique characteristics of the beer style they were meant to hold.
One of the most iconic drinking vessels for beer is not glassware at all, but kilned stoneware. The stein enjoyed its heyday in the 1800s when drinking culture in Germany centered around long communal tables in elaborate beer gardens or "kellers." The stein, with it's hinged lid, kept both insects and falling leaves out of the glass while still allowing for easy one-handed drinking. Beyond their simple utility though the steins served as an artistic medium for elaborate designs and illustrations. Stoneware began to fall out of favor once beer filters were invented in 1878. Once brewers began to make perfectly clear beer there was a need for a drinking vessels that they could see through as well.
What it's best for: Re-enacting German beer history, just be careful if you've got the genuine article. Authentic, handmade German Steins from the 1800's are extremely valuable collectors items.
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