Scenes From the Masskrugstemmen (Beer-Stein-Holding Contest)

Walking into the biergarten of the American German Club of the Palm Beaches on a Saturday night is like walking into an old friend's house. It's homey. The crowd isn't large, but they'll all turn to warmly greet you hello. And if you're lucky, a lovely young woman named Birte Keays will hurry out from behind the bar to offer you a quick tour.

"Have you heard about the masskrugstemmen?" Keays is a club member and the volunteer advertising and marketing director. Her accent is unique because she came to America with her Navy husband, Paul, from Germany by way of England. She will be one of the most interesting people you have met all week and a close runner-up for friendliest.

For those not in the know,

masskrugstemmen literally means "beer-stein holding," and that is

basically what it is. Contestants, generally men, hold a liter-sized

stein filled with beer straight out in front of them for as long as they

can. That's pretty much it, but the beauty of a good bar or party game

is in its simplicity.

The winner of the final competition on August 18 wins two tickets to New York. It's free to compete, and even if you don't win, you still go home with your enormous Hofbrau stein, a free T-shirt, and some aching arm muscles to remind you of your valiant effort. In New York, the local champ will compete in the national championship after the German-American Steuben Parade on September 18. And the winner from that competition will win two tickets to go on to Munich, Germany.

Friday nights at the club are the more formal dinner night with

traditional German food, music, and dance -- and it tends to be for an

older crowd. The club wanted to offer a more casual night to help draw in the

young'uns, so Biergarten Night was born. From 7 p.m. on, there is a

food truck parked outside --- sorry, no sauerbraten this night -- and the

German beers flow freely. You can even get yours in a boot.

It's not too late to throw your arm into the ring. There are still two more competitions, August 3 and August 18, which is the finals night. But beware: Holding a five-pound stein of sloshy liquid (that you'd rather be drinking) without spilling any or dropping your arm is harder than it sounds. The best time this night was just over three minutes, but the time to beat this year is six minutes and 13 seconds. Still, with a little training (and a little drinking), you can dream. Sign-up for the masskrugestemmen goes on all evening, and the competition itself starts at 9 p.m.

"Like" the American German Club of the Palm Beaches on Facebook to keep up with all of its events, or visit its website.

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