Beer Die History
Photo via Beer Die / Facebook

Deep in the Alpha Tau Omega house library at the University of Maine in 1972, four fraternity men tossed a single die above a table without letting it fall off the edge. Thus the game of Beer Die, also known as Snappa, was born, according to crowdsourced research from the official Beer Die League fan page.

Beer Die is a drinking game that takes more skill than beer pong, more thinking than das boot and more drinking than flip cup. It’s an elite drinking game mastered only by the most dedicated game enthusiasts. It also, like most drinking traditions, has a foggy history.

Beer Die takes four players in armless chairs, four 16-ounce cups, one standard die and a big rectangle table. Starting with the eldest player, each person underhand throws the die up in the air. If the die hits the table and rolls off the edge, the opposing team has to catch it with one hand. Points go to the thrower’s team if the die isn’t cleanly caught and both members of the losing team drink a quarter of their beers as punishment.

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“Beer Die is a gentleman’s game and should always be played as one,” the Beer Die League writes on its rules page. “Any rules or suggestions are up to the discretion of the hosting party and any arguments will be mediated in a gentlemanly manner.”

The Maine brothers of ATO had an honorable game in mind. If, that is, they were even the ones to invent it.

The Colby Echo, Maine’s Colby College student newspaper, claims the game was created by a group of Colby students in 1978 (something only 47 percent of participants in a survey knew). The game isn’t a mainstay at Colby anymore because the game is too slow and students are more likely just trying to drink as much as possible in as short a time as possible, the article, titled “Colby tradition, a dieing (sic) culture,” states. The game hasn’t completely disappeared. As recently as 2002, the Colby Echo Freshman Orientation included official Colby Beer Die rules.

Another theory of how the game started, posted on the Wikipedia page for Beer Die, gives credit to Naval officers in the 1970s and students at Santa Clara University in California.

Regardless of the history, the different origin stories make sense when you look at where the game is played today. The Beer Die League charted out schools with official “Beer Die Chapters,” and they’re clustered in the Northeast and the West Coast.

No matter where you play, where it’s from or what you call it, Beer Die is a skill game for the ages. Check out Beer Die League’s tournament rules to start a tournament of your own.