The Mystery of the Beer Boot

Posted on February 2nd, 2010

We’ve covered proper glassware and its importance to fully enjoying beer before. What we didn’t cover is some of the more unusual vessels out there for drinking beer, vessels like the glass boot. The 2006 comedy movie Beerfest brought some attention to this odd drinking cup, but didn’t really explain its history.

The exact origins of the glass boot are unknown, but there are several theories commonly proposed. The first and most popular theory suggests that the glass boot came to be about a hundred years ago. A German general promised his troops that he would drink from a shoe if they won a tough upcoming battle. To his surprise they did, but instead of sipping beer from his actual boot the general had a glass boot made just for him so he could honor his promise without the beer smelling like old socks. After that the practice caught on with soldiers throughout Germany and eventually the rest of the beer drinking world.

There are several other theories that suggest that drinking beer from a leather boot was a test of courage and/or a hazing ritual for men and soldiers dating back anywhere from 500 to 50 years ago. Although we may never know for sure when the boot came to be, the where was probably Germany, where the glass is known as a “bierstiefel.”

Today the boot is popular mostly among younger beer drinkers, especially those in college, who use the boot for various drinking games. Drinking very quickly from a bierstiefel with the toe of the boot pointing down creates a vacuum pocket which will eventually shoot the beer out of the glass. The challenge for these young revelers is to continue finishing the beer without letting the inevitable beer splash slow them down. Although we here at Beeriety don’t support most drinking games, we do support the celebration of ages old beer drinking tradition.

Glass boots come in many different shapes and sizes and are available at some finer beer bars and restaurants. The next time you’re out be sure to ask your server if they have any beer boots for you to try.

  • adverbially

    Living in Wisconsin has taught me many things, including proper beer-boot drinking etiquette. The boot should always be passed around the table without being set down until it's finished; the last drinker before the drinker who finishes the boot gets publically shamed and then buys the next round. The laws of physics can be defied by drinking with the toe pointed out to the side. And for the love of God, make sure “boot” remains a noun rather than a verb.

  • Phil

    I lived with a South African in Britain who would sometimes take his own boot off in a pub and drink a beer out of it….saying that's what they did in S. Africa….but I have never heard of such a ritual since. He was a bit of a nutter though. In Canada (where I live) you would be thrown out of a pub for doing that…a little more liberal in some London pubs I guess.