If you sip a stein of beer for 10 minutes, it will likely feel like, well, 10 minutes. But if you hold a liter stein full of beer straight-armed directly in front of you for 10 minutes, “it feels like a whole day,” as New Braunfels’ 2019 men’s masskrugstemmen champion Edwin Brown explained.
By those standards alone, Saturday, Aug. 17 was a long day for Brown. Not only did he hold his stein for 10 minutes and 30 seconds to win the competition, but the professional tuba musician played polka with the Oompahs before and after the competition as part of Krause Cafe’s evening entertainment.
Those watching the men compete may have noticed the winner wore lederhosen.
“I had just finished my first set, and I took my polka shirt off and did the final round on my set break, so after I won, I had to go back on stage and keep playing,” he laughed.
Coincidentally, it was at a polka gig this past spring that Brown first tried his hand at masskrugstemmen.
“They were doing a friendly match, just for fun,” he said. “I thought it would be fun, so I gave it a try and I ended up winning that night.”
Brown said the excitement of winning motivated him to try to qualify for the official competition, so in the weeks leading up to the qualifier, he practiced building his stamina.
“I have some big glass steins at my house that I started practicing holding,” he said.
After he won the qualifier, it was “go time.”
“I started working really hard for the big one,” Brown said. “I started doing a little more resistance training and holding the beer stein at home while watching TV. Randomly around the house, people would walk by and I would be standing there, watching the television and holding my stein up for as long as I could.”
Brown said outside of physically preparing himself, he has been working to prepare himself mentally, much like he would in advance of a musical performance.
“Just trying to focus in on my body and my breathing, trying to pay attention to my stillness — I’m trying to be very relaxed even though I’m doing something that is causing me a lot of physical pain, basically,” he laughed.
Brown said at times his mind wanders. Sometimes he counts seconds. Sometimes he sings the A-B-Cs to himself repeatedly. Other times he takes a more “classical” approach.
“There’s this really great piano trio Tchaikovsky wrote, and sometimes I’ll kind of sing that in my head, because the piece is 16 minutes long,” he said. “I figure if I can sing the tune in my head, it’ll get me pretty far.”
As impressive as his time was at the finals, it’s not his longest time. Brown said during his at-home practice, he has held the stein for 12 minutes and 30 seconds. From talking to past winners of the national championship in New York, where he’ll compete on Sept. 21, Brown has decided he’ll need to improve his time to around the 20-minute mark if he’s going to win a spot in the world championship competition in Germany.
To do that, he’s working to push up his time by a couple of minutes every week.
“It’s a little like music,” he said. “You work on it every day and you see those steady improvements, you know, 30 seconds at a time.”
His girlfriend, Kassie Carrell, has also been helping him train.
“She’s sort of my coach — she’s a former Marine — so she’s been kicking my butt,” he laughed. “She took me on a 5-mile run and I carried an 8-pound dumbbell with me. I’d run with the weight out in front of me, trying to build my left arm up. I feel like I’m Rocky right now.”
Brown said the work is worth it in order to win a free trip to Germany.
“This whole process has been really fun,” he said. “It’s given me a very clear and simple goal to focus on. It’s exciting to prepare — I have one month to train and it simplifies things. I don’t have much to think about except ‘get stronger’ and ‘hold the stein up longer.’”
While Brown practiced for weeks leading up to the finals at Krause’s, Sierra Krauskopf, who won first-place in the women’s competition just showed up, held the beer and won.
“I heard about it for the first time while running in the 5K Crawdaddy Dash in New Braunfels in April,” she said, explaining she’d never seen a masskrugstemmen competition until this year.
Krauskopf, who is a gym coach in Wimberley, referred to herself as a life-long cheerleader — she was a cheerleader in high school and college, and now she also teaches high school cheerleading.
In the qualifying round, Krauskpf’s time was 3 minutes and 47 seconds.
“So I thought, ‘Well, if I can get 4 minutes, I can win,’ but then during the finals, I heard them say, ‘Five minutes!’ and I was like, ‘What? Five minutes?’” she recalled. “It just feels like forever.”
During the competition, she tried to find something to focus on.
“I’m really competitive so while I was holding the stein, I was just trying to breathe,” she said. “At first I tried to watch TV, but that didn’t really work.”
Krauskopf said she didn’t train for the qualifying round or the finals competition, where she took gold with 5 minutes and 14 seconds. However, she probably will train for the nationals in New York City.
“Someone told me to put a weight in a stein and fill it with water and then hold it, so I’ll probably do that,” Krauskopf said. “That sounds like a plan.”