Does anyone still take beer mat collecting seriously? The answer is undoubtedly yes. I used to, though my quite healthy collection vanished before I moved to a new city (Preston). I have picked up a hundred or so since moving. I have a long way to go to catch up with Guinness Book Of Records winner Leo Pisker in Austria who has 152,860 in his collection. There is a British society of Beer Mat Collectors and several auctioning websites dedicated to the pastime.
Tegestology, or beer mat collecting is the best known ‘breweriana’ hobby (collecting anything to do with pubs and brewing / distilling). My pub sign photo collecting is a form of Breweriana too.
There is some debate online as to whether beer mats are coasters or not. They certainly serve the same function, to collect liquid spilling from cups and glasses and bottles to help ease staining to tables and bar top services. Coasters tend to be made of more durable re-usable wood or plastic or even metal, while drip mat-beer mats tend to be cardboard, and wear out after a few uses. In the US drinks are more often served with paper tissue soakers, which can be inadequate to the task at hand and can get stuck to table tops and require scraping off in bits when the surfaces are cleaned.
Beer mats can carry advertising or public information. The breweries will promote their wares on the mats, or give ‘did you know’ factoids on pubs, beers and brewing history.
Some mats offer details on local businesses, such as taxi services while others may offer police advice not to drink and drive. Sadly, many beer mats promote gambling online and in betting shops, replacing one risk of addiction (alcoholism) with another (gambling).
Knowing that beer mats can be seen as highly collectible, mats have sometimes been purposely promoted in limited collector’s editions. Some may be part of a set and pursued with similar gusto as Pokemon Cards. Some mat sets can form a jig-saw puzzle if put together in the right order.
My collection, past and present was only ever whatever mats I stumbled on in pubs I have frequented. I was rather disheartened at a beer festival to see traders exchanging mats and collectors buying them in packs by the score, and hundreds in one go. It seemed like cheating.
More often than not collectors including myself just take an unstained mat from the pub table it has been placed on. This can make some publicans irate and it is polite to ask for a mat rather than just taking one. Some bar staff bar customers plundering mats.
Another sacrilege is the use of beer mats as post-it notes, using them for scribbling phone numbers or to do lists or bits of poetry on.
My tegestology is of an if it’s there I’ll add it to my stash approach rather than a dedicated pursuit approach (unlike my inn-sign obsession). I do have a few interesting mats, and it is great that the hobby endures to this day. Many pub walls are decorated in drip mats and I always enjoy looking through them to see which ones include beers and breweries I have experienced myself.