German Beer Mats

Whether they serve as coasters, covers, or collectibles, the Bierdeckel has a colorful history.
By Sharon Hudgins
Photographs Courtesy Sharon Hudgins

If you’re a beer drinker, then you’ll be in seventh heaven in Germany, where Bier is the year-round beverage of choice for almost any occasion, from a stand-up snack at a seasonal festival to a jolly get-together at the local Gasthaus, from an important business lunch to a casual dinner with friends. Yes, Glühwein is traditional for Christmas and Sekt for New Year’s Eve and other special occasions, but the rest of the time beer is King, despite Germany’s production of excellent wines, too.

When the waiter brings you a beer in a tavern or restaurant, the glass or mug is almost always set down on a small coaster or mat called a Bierdeckel (beer lid or beer cover). But if the Germans call it a lid or cover, why is it underneath the beer? And where did this custom come from?

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