What's the point of the lid on the beer stein?

beer stein

  • It may have been used to avoid being poisoned as well.
    – dongemus
    Nov 23, 2014 at 23:11
  • I think Fishtaster has it about right, but I'd add that just as (many) modern men like their gadgets, there's a lot of evidence (e.g. from the Mary Rose) that medieval man was just the same. A great tankard with a lid was a toy that a man could show off in front of his friends with and that added a bit of fun to his beer drinking. I think it still is.
    – Gareth
    May 18, 2016 at 0:21
  • When I lived in Germany, if you were in a pub that had these type of steins and you left the lid down it was a sign you needed a new beer. There weren't many pubs like this anymore even when I lived there in the 80s Aug 25, 2017 at 15:53

6 Answers 6


Today they're largely just traditional. However, originally they helped:

  1. To keep the beer cool by preventing airflow from above.
  2. To keep insects and other contaminants out.
  3. To prevent spillage while cheers-ing and generally carousing.

See the following article on Stein Lids for more detail.

  • 2
    I will say that not only are they mostly decorative today but if you want a usable stein+lid that you should make sure the lid will open enough to get out of your way before you buy the stein. I was gifted one and it is purely a decorative mug at this point due to the lid being in the way. Jan 27, 2014 at 18:51
  • 3
    Those all seem like useful features for the modern beer drinker, too.
    – Anthony
    Jan 29, 2014 at 7:27

The steins with their lids seem to have come about as a result of the bubonic plague to serve as sanitary measure and thus keep flies and other insects (fleas) out of the beer.

From about 1340 until 1380, a bubonic plague, or Black Death, killed more than 25 million Europeans! As horrible as this historic event was, it prompted tremendous progress for civilization. And, of interest here, it is also responsible for the origin of the beer stein.

Recall from above that the distinction between a mug and a stein is the hinged lid. This lid was originally conceived entirely as a sanitary measure. During the summers of the late 1400s, hoards of little flies frequently invaded Central Europe. By the early 1500s, several principalities in what is now Germany had passed laws requiring that all food and beverage containers be covered to protect consumers against these dirty insects. The common mug also had to be covered, and this was accomplished by adding a hinged lid with a thumblift. This ingenious invention was soon used to cover all German beverage containers while still allowing them to be used with one hand. - A Brief History of Beer Steins.

For more information one should read The Beer Stein Book: A 400 Year History.


Beer with hops will get skunky shortly after exposure to sun light. Exposure of about 15 seconds and you can smell the change start if you hold it to your nose in bright sun light. I have one and use it during outdoor barbecues.


My Austrian father-in-law tells me that they're also handy for keeping ashes out of your beer. I don't smoke, so that had never really occurred to me until he mentioned it.


I believe the lid was also used during the Revolutionary War to keep the Kings naval soldiers from throwing a British coin into the beer of an unsuspecting drunk colonist in a tavern. Legend has it that once the ale was consumed, the remaining coin would signify that the owner of the stein would be incriminated by default, to the loyalty of the King. He would then be immediately drafted into the Naval Army of the King. Consequently, the need for a glass bottom to the stein was adopted as a precaution for colonists to be able to see the naval officers by simply lifting up the stein and prevent capture..

  • 2
    Your answer would be better supported with a link that helps your statement.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 24, 2017 at 11:32

I visited Bavaria last November and noticed how comfortable the people were outdoors. Maybe they used the lids to keep the snow from watering down their beer. I think it’s the best!

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