From preserved mediaeval sources we know that the mug is the oldest plate used in drinking beer. In the testament of Casimir the Great a certain amount of set horns is mentioned, which were also used as beer vessels. On an everyday basis, beer was drunk from mugs, which at the beginning had a svelte or slightly narrowed shape, which gave the vessels a certain touch of elegance. From time to time, the mugs had lids in order to make it more difficult to add poison by a potential poisoner.
The chronicles tell us that such a possibility was taken very seriously in courts. The oldest archive mention in the archives of Poznań, listing the name of this beer vessel, comes from 1435.
Mugs were made from poured or glazed clay, turned from wood, cast in tin or forged from silver. Preserved examples from 17th century feature rich, ornamental and even figurative decoration.
Glasses decorated with paint were most probably drunk from in the houses of the nobility, as they are mentioned in poems of Rej and Kochanowski.
In the 18th century, the conical shape of the vessel becomes universal. Reversed, truncated cone which emulates the metal mug. This shape remained in use even by the 20th century. Glasses made from crystal glass gain in popularity. They are quite often grinded creating the so-called many-sided belly. Engraved glasses also become popular, with owner’s coats-of-arms being the most frequent motif.
The 16th century provides the first mentions of mugs as rivals for glasses. Mugs gain in popularity gradually and rather in inns and taverns. The shape was changing from pear-shaped to barrel-shaped mugs. They were made from clay, wood, tin, but also stoneware, faience or glass. Mugs most often featured lids protecting the liquid from the accidental external living or “dead” dirt. In the 17th century, the inventories of townsmen begin to contain stoneware mugs, previously popular in Saxony and Rhineland. These beautifully made vessels pleased the beer-drinker’s eye, though they certainly created a problem of hygiene maintenance.
When beer filtration was introduced in the 19th century, the colour and clarity of beer was gaining in significance. Thus, more transparent mugs began to appear on the market, later followed by glasses and pokale, i.e. high vessels in the shape of reversed cone, similar to champagne glasses, with larger upper surface for rich foam.
Today, we look at glasses and mugs from the point of view of functionality, aesthetics and possibility of chemical and mechanical washing in high temperatures. Glass should be resistant to thermal shocks. Glasses and mugs must be clean and smell-free.
Glass shapes should also be selected with specific beers in mind. For popular lagers, the shape of the bottle should allow to maintain the foam for a longer time and slower down the release of carbon dioxide. The mug or glass should also have its capacity marked which guarantees a given amount of beer served.
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