Located just outside a tiny 200-person village along an isolated stretch of Virginia’s U.S. 460, the Steins Unlimited home-museum is about as obscure as it gets. Sans a website, it is advertised by two hand-painted signs—one hanging from the mailbox, the other rising from the edge of the yard.
But inside, a world of fascination awaits. Stepping into a large two-room outdoor shed, visitors are greeted by an array of floor-to-ceiling shelves brimming with some of the most ornate and historically significant drinking vessels ever made. The collection of 10,000-plus rare beer steins is the product of George Adams’s lifelong obsession, and took more than 50 years to compile.
Adams uses his extraordinary collection to tell the story of beer drinking from 1350 to today. Rising from a corner workbench, Adams is quick to offer museum-goers a “bottomless pint” of America’s oldest beer, Yuengling, from an onsite kegerator. (Beer and admission are free, though donations are welcomed.)
For the next hour, he will guide guests down a rabbit hole of German and American beer history. A tour includes the institutionalization of the stein via 15th-century sanitation laws inducted after the Black Death, the ensuing “golden era” of European beer drinking, the rise of beautifully crafted steins as status symbols, American prohibition, the drinking habits of the Third Reich, and much more.
Adams’s finest treasures are displayed within his home, a four-bedroom brick rancher. The keystone of the collection is a room containing about 500 vessels that include hand-carved wooden steins, silver steins, and even gold-lidded steins, many of which are hundreds of years old.
Know Before You Go
From the road, the museum couldn’t be more nondescript: Be sure to plug the address into your GPS. Although technically open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., as Adams is a one man show, do call ahead.