German Beer Boots: History & Drinking Tips

beer boot
Beer boots, or “das boots,” as they are affectionately referred to, have been popular at beer festivals and rowdy parties in the United States for decades. Made of glass and often oversized (we carry boots as large as two liters but also as small as shot glasses), they are typically used jocularly—that is, for drinking games or in macho displays of drinking prowess.

Beer Boot History

Despite their kitschy appeal stateside, the bierstiefel (the proper, German word for “beer boot”) is an authentic piece of Bavarian beer culture with a somewhat murky origin story. Most sources credit a Prussian general for starting the glassware trend. According to legend, he promised his troops he would quaff a beer from his own leather boot in exchange for a win on the battlefield. When his men proved victorious, he commissioned a glass likeness of his boot to spare himself the displeasure and humiliation of drinking foot beer from the real deal. From there, it is believed the glass gained popularity, and in time, it was folded into Oktoberfest traditions. The beer boot eventually made its way to North America thanks to the returning World War II soldiers who observed the tradition while serving overseas.

dash boot

The act of drinking from a boot may, in fact, root deeper than said tale would leave one to believe. There are people who theorize about these things, and some of them posit that forcing a comrade to drink from stinky footwear as a show of initiation or punishment might have been a medieval form of group hazing. Further, archaeological evidence suggests people of Central Europe have been making shoe-shaped vessels for centuries. Whether those vessels held beer or not is anyone’s guess.

The Beer Boot Challenge

Part of the fun of the beer boot is the challenge it poses. Its novel shape causes a large air bubble to form as the beer is consumed. When the bubble makes its way to the toe with the tilting of the glass, it has sort of a tidal wave effect, causing the remaining beer to surge toward the drinker’s open mouth at a faster-than-expected rate. If the drinker is unsuspecting, the typical result is spilled beer down the front of his or her shirt. Pretty humiliating.

How to Drink From a Beer Boot

The trick to avoiding a shamefully dampened shirt is to release the bubble slowly. Start drinking from the beer boot with the toe pointed directly away from you. As the bubble moves down the glass, gradually rotate the boot 90 degrees in either direction so that by the time the bubble reaches the toe, the toe is pointing to the right or left. This lessens the pressure, ensuring a smooth drinking experience.

What’s With the Name ‘Das Boot’?

In the United States, we use the term “das boot” to describe a beer boot, but that actually translates to boat in German. Das Boot also happens to be the name of a novel about a World War II German U-boat as well as its film adaptation. Apparently, whoever first ascribed das boot to a beer boot was more concerned with marketability than accuracy.

Will you be using a beer boot at festivals or parties this year? Send us your photos on Facebook, and let us know if you managed to avoid the dreaded tidal wave.


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