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How to tell if you have a Real German Beer Stein

How to tell if it is a real German stein? Well here are some guide lines.

Have you wondered why some German Beer Steins are so cheap on the internet?  They’re cheap because they aren’t real German, and not handcrafted and hand painted by real German craftsman. The difference in price between the authentic German beer stein and one made somewhere else can amount to quite a bit. Let’s give you a few things to look for so that you get a real one.

 The first place and perhaps the easiest place to look is on the bottom of the Beer Stein itself.  As far back as 1887 Germany had the “Merchandise Marks Act of 1887”. This act said that any products including beer steins that were to be exported had to be marked either “Germany” or “Made in Germany” .  The mark may say “Gemacht in Deutschland”. This law only dealt with exports so if it was made for the domestic market it was not required so it is possible to still be real if it was made to be sold in Germany. If it says made in China, Taiwan or Brazil it’s not a real German Stein.

The next thing to look at is the lid. An authentic German beer stein has a lid that is very similar or complimentary to the design and painting of the stein itself. It will be highly decorated and detailed and unless it is a very old stein it will have a thumb lift on it. Very few steins made in recent years were made without the thumb lift. It is usually made of some kind of metal such as pewter. The inside of the lid and stein will be lighter in color to the outside because since it is kept closed most of the time it doesn’t oxidize as quickly as the outside. Of course if the stein has been displayed with the lid open then it might look like the same shade. Usually this doesn’t happen because the lid is kept closed. In my house most of our steins are used for decoration so the lids are closed.

I have seen some blogs that will tell you to look for a lithophane image in the bottom of the stein by holding it up to light to see the image. They have not researched well enough because there isn't enough light available to penetrate the clay material of an earthenware stein. The lithophane image only applies to Porcelain steins that sunlight can penetrate. They will also tell you the image is painted in the bottom; this is another falsehood since it is actually etched into very thin porcelain layers. Most beer steins are called either earthenware or stoneware. The difference between the types are the blends of the clay mixture and firing temperatures. Porcelain is made from kaolin clay and fired at the hottest temperatures as high as 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit which produces exceptionally white ceramics and very thin-walled vessels.

Another thing to look at is the painting. What I am going to tell you may seem to be a bad thing at first but it is a good way of telling if the stein was hand painted. Remember there are craftsman sitting at tables all day doing this painting on highly reliefed steins and it is very easy to miss a tiny spot in one of the reliefs or overlap some paint. Take a careful look and you might see one of these spots. That is a sure sign that it was hand painted and it doesn’t devalue the stein.

New beer steins have a bump in the handle or finger grips but the absence of them does not necessarily mean that it’s old since a small percentage of newer steins (10 to 20%) don’t have the bump.

 If the website you’re looking at German beer steins on doesn’t show who the manufacturer is then ask. There are only a few manufacturers that still produce authentic German Beer Steins so if they don’t say who the manufacturer is then it’s a good chance that the steins aren’t made in Germany. Thewalt stopped manufacturing in the fall of 2009 and in January of 2011 King Werks has started producing them under an agreement with Thewalt and refers to the new line as Thewalt 1893. The other manufacturer still producing authentic German Beer Steins is Zoller & Born.

I hope this might help you find the real German handcrafted beer stein.