Now that we're only about 5 months away from the 2020 Hofbräu America National Masskrugstemmen Championship, Oktoberfest in Central Park and Steuben Day Parade, we wanted to check in with Andrew Furman, the 2019 Hofbräu National Masskrugstemmen Men's Champion (with an awesome time of 12 minutes, 8 seconds). Andrew shared his Steinholding story, what he's been up to in the last few months and what he has planned for the future.
USSA: So Andrew, when did you first compete in Masskrugstemmen/Steinholding?
Andrew: I was at Brauhaus Schmitz for their 10th anniversary block party on South Street in Philly. It was last year in June and I was there with my girlfriend Christina and we were just hanging out and having fun. Doug [Hager, owner of Brauhaus Schmitz] came up to me and said "You're going to do Steinholding." I said "No, I'm not." He said "yeah you are." I said "Nope." He was pretty insistent but eventually he walked away, and I didn't think about it much more. There were tons of people there and I didn't see him for a little while. At some point later on, he gets on the mic and announces it's time for Steinholding and everybody who's going to do it should come up to the stage and get ready. Everybody was going up, but I wasn't going up. I did not want to do it. So then Doug calls me out on the mic and he's looking right at me and saying my name and pointing at me in front of everyone. So of course, I wasn't going to back down now. I had an idea that Steinholding existed, but I didn't really know anything about it or the rules. That was the first time I ever tried it, let alone competed at it.
USSA: Lots of people kind of fall into Steinholding and find that they're good at it. It's rarer that they get bullied into it, but Doug made the right call because you won right? And then you won at the National Championship a few months later. So you've competed twice and won both times. You're undefeated.
Andrew: Haha yeah I guess that's not too bad in hindsight. It was a surreal experience overall and I kind of got dragged into it not knowing what it was. It definitely isn't lost on me that lots of guys and gals put in the hard work to train for it year-round, and I really respect that. Right after the competition at Brauhaus Schmitz, Tom, one of the reps from Hofbräu America came up to me and introduced himself and advised me about what was next. He said "You're going to New York." And I said "For what?" And he said "You qualified." And I said "Qualified for what?" I wasn't sure what he was talking about and then he explained that there was a national competition. At first I was skeptical. I thought he was messing with me. But then he followed up with me later and gave me the details and here we are.
USSA: Well after you fell into it did you train much in between qualifying and then competing at the National Championship?
Andrew: I trained a little bit. I did a handful of runs at home with a liter of water. I think I did maybe 4 or so solid attempts. But that was it other than my normal workout routine. Actually, one thing that Jen Kuklentz mentioned about training was that she would train while she was watching former competition videos. I actually did that too and I found that to be really helpful. I would just put the previous year's competition on the big screen and grab a full stein and practice along with it.
USSA: Yeah I think that's a really cool idea. It's a great way to get into the right frame of mind for a competition.
Andrew: If you try to train with no music or anything and you're just standing there alone in the kitchen or watching yourself in a mirror with a stein in your hand, it's not very motivating.
USSA: During the competition, was there anything that motivated you in particular?
Andrew: Standing side by side with the strong competitors got the adrenaline going, which always helps. Wanting to represent my area was a big factor. Seeing my girlfriend Christina in the front row cheering me on and supporting me was really an amazing boost.
USSA: Other than winning the national title, what were some of the highlights of your trip to the finals in NYC?
Andrew: Well it was kind of a whirlwind of events that weekend. I gotta be honest with you, I was pretty nervous. I'm very competitive and being nervous, I didn't get to enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. But it was a great experience overall. It was great to meet everybody at the champions' reception the night before at Bierhaus NYC. The Oktoberfest in the park was awesome too. Riding the float and hanging with all of the other competitors was really fun. Before the float ride, I was talking to Todd McEachern who competed for Friesenhaus in New Braunfels, Texas and I mentioned that it seems like there is really a lot of Steinholding going on in that town and in Texas, year-round really. I said to Todd "It seems like you guys hold steins, all the time. Why?" He replied, "Man, I don't know, we're from Texas. It's just what we do for fun." Classic.
USSA: Yeah between Krause's Cafe, Friesenhaus, and Wurstfest, they really take it seriously and do a great job of promoting the sport. Krause's Cafe has been talking to Hofbräu about hosting the southern regional semi-finals and it sounds like they might have a shot at it this year if everything works out. It's been moving around the last few years and they've been trying to get it into New Braunfels. That's really like the country's Steinholding capital.
Andrew: Yeah they're fanatics about it, it's great! Actually I saw a picture online not long ago and it looks like Krause's has banners up with the names of past winners and runners-up who represented them. They had Michael, Deryk, Jason Hurta and Sierra's name up there too. They seem to take it as seriously as anybody out there in the country.
USSA: It's really cool of them to do that and recognize the work that these athletes have put into the sport. I've been to all of those venues too, and they're great places. The Steinholding is the icing on the cake really. We're hoping to work something out with Wurstfest in the future to host some competitions there. They've been embracing the sport more and more over the last couple of years and we'd love to do something with them. We'll be going out there this fall for the festival anyway because it's awesome, so hopefully we can get some official competitions in the works.
You had mentioned being nervous before the competition and not being able to enjoy the whole situation in NYC as much. I had the same issues with nerves for sure and it feels a lot better when you aren't competing. Are you coming back for the National Championship weekend this year so you can enjoy it a little bit more?
Andrew: Oh yeah absolutely. I can't wait. It's going to be a great time.
USSA: Have you claimed your prize and taken your victory trip to Munich yet?
Andrew: No, we were actually supposed to go this April, but everything was cancelled [because of the pandemic]. We had everything planned out and booked. We had some really good tickets to a Bayern Munich soccer game. Yeah so that got put on the back burner but we're really excited to get over there and check it out. We're looking to reschedule it with Hofbräu and get it worked out once we are in the clear with our current situation. Hofbräu has been great to work with in general, but specifically in terms of booking this stuff. Super helpful, professional, straight forward, all of that. Hopefully we'll be able to get it figured out soon enough.
USSA: Has your community done anything to recognize and appreciate your victory?
Andrew: Doug Hager invited Jen and I to the Brauhaus Schmitz Oktoberfest at the Armory and we brought our belts and as soon as people saw the belts, everybody was interested and wanted to know what they were for. People would come up and ask us about it and people would instantly claim, "Oh I can do that! All you have to do is hold a beer?!", and then give it a go. Most were a few beers in with some questionable form, but hey, the enthusiasm was there. At least everybody was having fun with it.
USSA: That's what matters. And that's one of the things that we love about Steinholding- once people hear about it, especially when they've had a few drinks and they have a stein nearby, they can't even stop themselves from trying it. When we're hosting or judging an event and we go around and talk to people and recruit competitors, it never fails that we walk away from and look back a minute or two later and people are holding up their pint glasses or mugs or whatever. It's intriguing in its simplicity and people really can't help but try it once they hear about it, even if they don't fully understand what it means.
Andrew: I think it sparks curiosity in people because it's one of those things like when you're little and somebody says "hey, I bet you can't hold your fingers together, touch your nose and spin around in a circle" and on its face it just sounds so stupid and they think, "of course I can do that. I can hold a beer in front of me." It's great that everybody believes they can do it, which is good for the sport.
USSA: Speaking of getting more people into the sport, have you been recruiting or training a protege to be the next national champ?
Andrew: Well, I didn't really tell anybody about it when I was training. I told maybe four people before the competition that I was doing it. I told my parents, my boss, and one or two of my close friends. I was nervous and I didn't want anybody to know, I'm weird like that. I used to do that when I was a competitive bodybuilder in my teens and I wouldn't tell anybody when my competitions were. But no, I'm not training anyone, although I have a good friend who is training to get into it and has been motivated to try it, so he's a good candidate to get into it for this year. There is a place not far from us that host competitions once in a while and he's going to jump into one there to try it out. So he's been asking me for some tips. He would be a very strong competitor. I did point him to the U.S. Steinholding Association website to look at the training information there. I found all of that to be extremely helpful when I was training. I followed along with your articles and that's something that I definitely recommend that people do.
USSA: What about competing some more yourself? If you were allowed to compete again in a national level competition, would you do it and why?
Andrew: Yeah I would. I would definitely take training more seriously and compete again if the chance arose. I'd really like to see what I could do with more training.
USSA: Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were going to go train and compete at nationals again? And what would you recommend to someone new trying to get into it? Any tips on training, preparation, pre-game rituals or anything?
Andrew: I would definitely take training more seriously, and train harder. Obviously I did well and I was able to win, but I do wish I had trained more. I would have felt more comfortable for sure. I could have pushed myself harder too. I didn't have any specific rituals, just trying to generally make good choices in terms of preparation. Not partying too hard, cutting back on unhealthy foods, making sure I was well rested and well hydrated. Just the basics pretty much- nothing that anybody doesn't probably already know. Just maintaining a healthy physical and mental state, trying to stay composed.
USSA: Do you think someone will break the national record this year? What do you think is the upper limit of human capacity for holding a stein?
Andrew: There are a lot of fitness and strength training nuts out there, so I think the current records will be challenged for sure. For the womens' record, I think there's definitely somebody out there that will show up in the near future and tag another minute or two onto the current time. The men's record is definitely going to be tougher at this point since the guys have been competing longer and Michael Tyler put on a great showing. In terms of the upper limit? Staying within the confines of the rules and regulations, I think there's a possibility to add a little bit of time on but I don't know.
USSA: This has been great, thanks for sharing with us Andrew! And we'll see you this fall!