Recently I wrote a post entirely devoted to the art of the beer label so this time around I thought I would blog about that oft-overlooked and most humble staple of brew pubs the beer mat. Composed of absorbent materials like pulp and paper, the beer mat, or coaster, is designed to spare furniture from the dreaded water ring but more than that beer mats are another venue for brewers to display their creativity and further their brand. It is this aesthetic aspect that has led to beer mats becoming a much sought after part of breweriana.
Now for a little history lesson: In 1880 this first beer mats made of cardboard were introduced by the German printing company Friedrich Horn, and in 1892 Robert Sputh of Dresden manufactured the first beer mat made of wood pulp. By the start of the 1900’s, brewery names began appearing on the mats in single colours. Watney brewery then introduced the beer mat to the United Kingdom in the 1920’s. The world’s biggest beer mat company (with 97% of the US beer mat market), Katz Group, has been in business since 1903 but recently declared bankruptcy.
So what does the future hold for the beer mat? Staking their reputation on the belief that beer mats mean more to the beer drinker than a place to park your ale, one Katz executive sees beer mats of the future adorned with shiny foil, pull off labels, wipe-clean surfaces and mats that change colour with heat/cold. A computerized version detects the weight in your glass and alerts the barkeep when you need a top up!
Other fun facts about the Beer Mat:
Tegestology is the Latin term for the practice of collecting beer mats. Tegestos refers to a small reed mat. The most extensive collection comprises of 150 000 mats.
The record for beer mat throwing is 38.26 meters. There are also record holders for most beer mats flipped off a table and most beer mats flipped off a chin.
In Ireland, beer mat usage is the world’s highest at 50 per person per year.
Beer Mats Rule! is a blog devoted to the beer mat.
The Official Beer Mat Flipping Website is dedicated to …well beer mat flipping.
*Thanks to Wikipedia, BBC and Spiegel Online International