Beer steins have had a home at the Memorial Union since Der Stiftskeller, or “cellar of the founders,” opened in 1962 to relieve the overly crowded Rathskeller. Gifts from former Union committee chairs and officers, the original steins were displayed on a stein rail installed around the room’s perimeter.
Adding to the Stiftskeller ambiance is a striking mural by the late Kurt Schaldach, a German painter then living in Milwaukee. Battle between Beer and Wine depicts an army of beer steins streaming out of a town to assault a contingent of gnomes, employing wine and champagne bottles with cork cannonballs to defend their Rhine Valley castle. The mural’s description reads: “When wine and bier make war on each other, who will win, who will lose?”
In the late 1990s, a UW graduate donated a portion of his beer stein collection to the UW Foundation. To properly house the collection, a special display case was constructed in the southwest corner archway of Der Rathskeller, creating a European-style tavern décor for Union visitors.