Is there a difference between a stein and a tankard?

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Both steins and tankards are used for drinking beer from, but there are differences between them.

A tankard is usually made from glass and has a handle, and it traditionally holds holds a pint of beer. A stein is a one litre or half-litre vessel that is often ceramic, and usually has a lid and a handle. Stein’s can be elaborately decorated.

Tankards are usually used in Britain, while steins are more associated Germany. That’s why the former holds an imperial pint and the latter a metric litre or half-litre.

What is a tankard?

Most tankards sold today are made from glass, though you can still purchase pewter tankards. Some pewter tankards have glass bottoms. There is a story that glass bottoms were added to the tankard so that, as you finish your drink, you can see through the glass to notice if anyone was about to attack you in a boisterous tavern.

Older tankards were made from wood, ceramic or leather. Some tankards have hinged lids, but this is unusual. There was a health scare about pewter tankards at one time, as pewter contained lead that could poison the drinker. Fortunately, modern pewter tankards are lead-free.

A tankard holds one pint of beer, though there are half-pint tankards. Some tankards have pint markers about an inch below the top of the tankard. The liquid should come up to the pint marker, allowing the foam on top of the beer to reach the top of the glass. Some drinkers say that the foam is not part of the pint measure, which is the reason for the pint marker being below the top.

The traditional beer tankard is the glass dimple tankard, with its distinctive dimple pattern and large handle. Some prefer a straight plain glass tankard.

What is a stein?

A stein is a litre or half litre vessel usually made from ceramic, though you can find steins made from glass, pewter and porcelain.

Steins traditionally have a lid, which some say was put on them to prevent the Black Plague virus entering the beer. The lid also prevents insects from flying into the liquid. In modern-day Germany, beer is often drunk in steins that do not have lids. Instead, a beer mat might be used to cover the stein when the drinker is not actively drinking.

Does the tankard or stein make a difference to the taste?

In Germany, steins are filled with light or lager type beers, whereas in Britain the glass tankard is traditionally filled with bitter, though any type of beer can be drunk in either a stein or a tankard. In theory, the same beer drunk from a stein should taste the same as from a tankard. Some say that drinking from a ceramic stein affects the taste compared to a glass tankard, though opinions about this are subjective.

Treat a beer drinker

If you know someone who likes to drink beer, why not treat them to their own personalised engraved beer tankard? Whether it changes the taste or not, they will appreciate the stylish look of the tankard and how it feels when their fingers are wrapped through the handle and around the glass.

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