Written by Jim Banko, U.S. Steinholding Founder

How Different Steinholding Competition Types Work

We frequently get messages from people who have hosted or won a Steinholding competition at a local bar, brewery, festival, etc., and want to know how they can move on to compete at the national championship competition. Not all Steinholding competitions are created equal and not all competitions are part of a national competition series. The different types of competitions are run slightly differently. We've seen how confusing this can be for would-be competitors who are trying to get themselves into a competition, and for venues who want to host a competition that's part of a bigger program.

For competitors, in many cases, it can be difficult to know in advance how any given competition location will run its event, but for the structured national competitions, there are some guidelines that you can count on. Your best bet is always to contact a venue directly to verify the details before you make your plans to compete. Since that doesn't always work, we put this guide together to give you an idea of what to expect with the major competition types. As always, our advice is that you should plan and train for the most difficult conditions because there's no telling how any given venue will run their competition.

NOTE: We want to clarify right up front that winning a U.S. Steinholding Association Member Venue DOES NOT automatically enroll you into any of the national championship series tournaments (like the Hofbräu National Masskrugstemmen Championship). We created the Venue Membership Program to improve the quality of competitions at venues that are committed to Steinholding and to help get the word out about these types of venues. Becoming a member of U.S. Steinholding Association is a great place to start for venues that are just beginning to build their in-house competitions and for veteran competition locations alike. We provide member venues with extensive informational resources, expert support, merch discount, extra cross-promotion, etc. to help make their competition events the best they can be. If you want to be involved in the Hofbräu program, you'll also need to register with Hofbräu, as we'll discuss below.

U.S. Steinholding Association Venue Membership Competitions

Format Overview: We require U.S. Steinholding Association Member Venue competitions to meet certain requirements to ensure consistent competition. As we mentioned above, Member Venue Competitions don't automatically send competitors to the next level of competition, but some of them do. Check the Member Profile Page or our Competition Map to be sure. Member Venues that are qualifying locations for the Hofbräu National Championship series are marked with red beer stein icons to denote that they are the absolute cream of the crop when it comes to Steinholding. Independent Member Venues that are not affiliated with a national championship event are marked with green beer stein icons, and they're also fantastic places to compete.

Whether they send competitors to a higher level of competition (red stein icons) or they host independent competitions (green stein icons), membership requires a commitment from the competition venue to meet several requirements and involves coordination and communication with the U.S. Steinholding Association. Participation in the U.S. Steinholding Association Venue Membership Program also requires an annual registration; more information is available here.

Locations: Check out our Competition Map where Member Venue locations are marked with red or green beer stein icons as discussed above. The USSA Venue Membership program is new for 2020 and we're currently building out the network of locations across the country, so check out the Membership page for details if you'd like your venue to be a part of the U.S. Steinholding Association family.

The Stein/The Rules: A competition sanctioned by the U.S. Steinholding Association is required to use the traditional dimpled 1L glass stein and must agree to use the current version of U.S. Steinholding Association official rules.

Hofbräu USA National Masskrugstemmen Championship Series

Format Overview: Hofbräu (correctly pronounced "HOAF-broy" in German, although most Americans call it "HOFF-brow") recognizes a number of locations across the country as official qualifying locations. Some locations may change from year to year, but many of the venues have been involved consistently for over a decade. These locations are marked with a red dot on our competition map. Participation in the Hofbräu national tournament requires a couple of things from the venue:

  1. Venues must have a Hofbräu account set up through their local Hofbräu sales office or distributor. Check out their program sign-up page or send us an email if you need a hand and we can get you in touch with your local Hofbräu representative.
  2. Venues pay an up front fee to join the Masskrugstemmen program. This fee covers entry into the competition series and the travel for their competitor to get to either the regional semi-finals for their area, or to get them directly to the New York City finals, depending on their account type.
  3. The venue is provided with basic instructions on how to set up and run their in-house local competition/series, along with a set of basic rules. The individual venues have the freedom to make many of the decisions about how to run the competition in a way that works best for their particular venue, within the structure of the Hofbräu guidelines.

Participating locations can choose for themselves how to structure their in-house qualifying round competitions. The venue can choose to charge an entry fee for each round of their competition to help cover the program and travel fees mentioned above. There are two common competition formats:

  • Many locations will have multiple preliminary rounds throughout the summer. The winners (or top 2 or 3 competitors) of each prelim round will then be invited back to a final round in which they will compete head to head to be crowned the local champion of that location.
  • Festival locations and smaller venues are most likely to have a single round competition with the winner being crowned champion for that location.

Depending on the venue and account type, there are three possible paths after the local competition. Venues work with their Hofbräu sales rep to work out the details and find the best option for their location:

  1. The champion of each location can be sent to the Regional semi-final competitions held in late summer in places like Las Vegas, Chicago, and Cleveland, at the Hofbräuhaus locations in those cities. The champions of each regional semi-final event are then eligible to compete in the Hofbräu National Championship event in New York City.
  2. The local champion of each location competes in a smaller, more local semi-final round of competition. There are local tournaments like this in Philadelphia and Long Island areas, for example, where a number of German restaurants, festivals and clubs will compete locally among themselves to crown a champion for their area, who will then be sent to the National Championship.
  3. For older, well-established venues and large accounts, Hofbräu offers the ability to have a local winner sent directly to the National Championship without going to a local or regional semi-final round.

Locations: Hofbräu locations are marked with red dots on the Competition Map. Each year there are usually at least 50 Hofbräu qualifying competition locations nationwide. Anyone with a Hofbräu account and a love for Steinholding can register to sponsor a competition. Competition locations are wide-spread and range from the licensed Hofbräu-affiliated restaurants such as a number of Hofbräuhaus locations like Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas and Hofbräu Bierhaus NYC, to independent German restaurants, early-season Oktoberfest-style festivals, German-American Summer festivals, as well as beer bars, sports bars and everything in between.

The Stein: The Hofbräu competitions use the traditional 1L dimpled glass stein. The stein itself weighs about 3 pounds and will be filled with a liter of beer or water up to the 1L mark at the lip of the stein.

Rules: Most of the Hofbräu locations, especially those that have been involved for a while, take the competitions very seriously, so they are likely to be the most strict in their enforcement of the rules during the competition. The rules listed on our Official Steinholding Rules page are used by the judges at the Regional semi-finals and at the Hofbräu National Masskrugstemmen Championship. These rules are also the gold standard that must be followed for a new national record to be considered valid by the U.S. Steinholding Association. All of the Hofbräu locations have these rules available, but not every location has a veteran group of judges on hand for their competitions, so there can always be variations in how strictly the rules are enforced on any given day.

Independent Competitions

Format Overview: While we strongly support the use of the official rules and the traditional dimpled 1L glass stein, U.S. Steinholding Association encourages anyone and everyone to host a competition that works for their particular event or venue. With that being said, from a competitor's perspective, this category can be kind of a crap-shoot. Individual bars, breweries, restaurants, festivals, etc., across the country host their own independent competitions. There are hundreds of them, with more popping up each year, and they all play by their own rules, which is fine and can add some fun variety as long as competitors know what to expect. They may have a group of local preliminary competitions at different venues around their town which lead into a local championship at a festival, for example. Or there might just be a single event. There's a ton of local variation.

Locations: There are hundreds of locations across the country that host independent competitions. We try to keep our Competition Map updated with as many of them as we can, but we're constantly adding more as we come across them. If you know of a competition that we've missed, or if you are going to be hosting your own competition, let us know and we'll get it added! Independent competitions are green dots on the map.

The Stein: There are a variety of options you might encounter. Some locations use the traditional dimpled glass 1L stein or the modern style smooth sided 1L stein. Some locations will use a plastic 1L stein or half liter glass stein or a plastic beer pitcher or something else altogether. It's usually just a matter of what kind of steins the venue had available. Scout ahead if you can and be ready for anything.

Rules: Most independent competitions follow the most basic of rules (straight arm, no spilling, arm parallel to the ground), but outside of that there can be a lot of variations. Some competitions will use a stein in each hand or allow you to hold the stein out at your side. Some competitions will be unisex rather than having a separate mens' and womens' division. Again, be ready for anything if you're going to be trying your hand at an independent competition, and most importantly HAVE FUN!


Jim banko national steinholding champion Jim Banko is the founder of the U.S. Steinholding Association. He is the 2015 Hofbrau Masskrugstemmen National Champion and previous United States record holder for Steinholding with an official time of 17 minutes and 11 seconds.

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