A History of the World in Six Glasses

Beer Symbol Analysis

Beer Symbol Icon

Beer, the first major “symbol” in the book, has meant many things to many different civilizations (at one point, it was considered a gateway to the realm of the gods). Nevertheless, for more than two thousand years it has been the drink of choice for everyday, working-class people. If anything, then, beer symbolizes the virtues of ordinary, day-to-day life: friendship, loyalty, and unpretentiousness.

Beer Quotes in A History of the World in Six Glasses

The A History of the World in Six Glasses quotes below all refer to the symbol of Beer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Walker Publishing Company edition of A History of the World in Six Glasses published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Beer was not invented but discovered. Its discovery was inevitable once the gathering of wild grains became widespread after the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 BCE, in a region known as the Fertile Crescent.

Related Symbols: Beer
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 2 Quotes

Enkidu’s primitive nature is demonstrated by his lack of familiarity with bread and beer; but once he has consumed them, and then washed himself, he too becomes a human and is then ready to go to Uruk, the city ruled by Gilgamesh. The Mesopotamians regarded the consumption of bread and beer as one of the things that distinguished them from savages and made them fully human.

Related Characters: Gilgamesh, Enkidu
Related Symbols: Beer
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

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Whether in stone-age villages, Mesopotamian banqueting halls, or modern pubs and bars, beer has brought people together since the dawn of civilization.

Related Symbols: Beer
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

Enthusiasm for civilized competition and Greece’s presumed superiority over foreigners were apparent in the Greek love of wine. It was drunk at formal dining parties, or symposia, which were venues for playful but adversarial discussion in which drinkers would try to outdo each other in wit, poetry, or rhetoric. The formal, intellectual atmosphere of the symposion also reminded the Greeks how civilized they were, in contrast to the barbarians, who either drank lowly, unsophisticated beer or—even worse—drank wine but failed to do so in a manner that met with Greek approval.

Related Symbols: Beer, Wine
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

Wherever alcohol is drunk, wine is regarded as the most civilized and cultured of drinks. In those countries, wine, not beer, is served at state banquets and political summits, an illustration of wine’s enduring association with status, power, and wealth.

Related Symbols: Beer, Wine
Page Number: 89-90
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.LoremLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore

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Beer Symbol Timeline in A History of the World in Six Glasses

The timeline below shows where the symbol Beer appears in A History of the World in Six Glasses. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction: Vital Fluids
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Drinking Spaces and Community Theme Icon
...of beverages, we can understand important things about human culture. He singles out six drinks: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. Each one was “the defining drink during a pivotal... (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Freedom and Self-Control Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Drinking Spaces and Community Theme Icon
...the dawn of the Agricultural Revolution, the time when humans first began converting wheat into beer—a drink so popular and important that often, workers were paid in beer. Later on, in... (full context)
Chapter 1: A Stone-Age Brew
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
...settle and develop agriculture, they turned from water to other more complicated beverages, such as beer. (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Beer was probably discovered between 10,000 BCE and 4,000 BCE. By 4,000 BCE, at least, it... (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Standage goes into more detail on the discovery of beer. The Fertile Crescent—the area between Egypt and Turkey—was home to the first practitioners of agriculture.... (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
...left to ferment for longer. They would have also realized that it’s possible to flavor beer by adding things like berries, fruits, or herbs. (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
There’s an interesting debate among archaeologists over which came first: beer or bread. It’s quite likely, Standage argues, that the earliest agriculturalists developed bread because they... (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Drinking Spaces and Community Theme Icon
Standage moves on to discuss the social applications of beer. For many early agricultural societies—the Sumerians, the Egyptians, etc.—drinking beer was an important ritual. Drinking... (full context)
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
...the dominant survival mode for human beings precisely because agriculture ensured a steady supply of beer. While such a theory is interesting and tempting to believe, it’s more likely that the... (full context)
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Drinking Spaces and Community Theme Icon
The role of beer in early civilization is still hotly debated. Some believe that beer was a crucial part... (full context)
Chapter 2: Civilized Beer
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Drinking Spaces and Community Theme Icon
...the way for advanced civilizations. This occurred because with a surplus of grain, bread, and beer, some people could afford not to work full-time, meaning that they could focus on administrative,... (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Freedom and Self-Control Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
The earliest records of people drinking beer have been found in Mesopotamian poetry. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the first... (full context)
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
In ancient Egypt, beer was believed to have divine origins, and to be able to cure diseases. In one... (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
...rations, and scientists have found that these rations included meat, fish, chickpeas, lentils, beans, and beer. In all, the rations provided about 4,000 calories per day—more or less the same amount... (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
The Sumerians’ language was called cuneiform. The cuneiform symbol for beer looks like a jar. The oldest written recipe in the world is a recipe for... (full context)
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
...was then used by the people’s rulers to build public works. In other words, grain—and beer—was a form of payment. To build the pyramids at Giza in Egypt, workers were paid... (full context)
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Drinking Spaces and Community Theme Icon
Although the world no longer sees beer as a universal currency, beer remains a staple of working-class life, just as it was... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Delight of Wine
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Drinking Spaces and Community Theme Icon
...etc.—but the most important part of the meal was the wine that Ashurnasirpal served. While beer was the most common drink at the time, the King made sure that wine—previously a... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Imperial Vine
Freedom and Self-Control Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Drinking Spaces and Community Theme Icon
...Mediterranean, usually consumed in moderation and with meals. In Northern Europe, on the other hand, beer remains the most popular drink. Wine’s influence on culture can be detected at any formal... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Drink That Built America
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...or minerals. During the early 1700s, colonists in North America had to make due without beer or wine, since these products were highly expensive to ship across the ocean. This changed... (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
...never experienced before their contact with Europeans. Because Americans knew about Native Americans’ love for beer, whiskey, and other forms of alcohol, they used alcohol to “sweeten the deal” when trading... (full context)
Chapter 11: From Soda to Cola
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Freedom and Self-Control Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
...egalitarian implications. One writer wrote, “The millionaire may drink champagne while the poor man drinks beer, but they both drink soda water.” (full context)
Epilogue: Back to the Source
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
...consumed before they knew how to brew anything at all: water. For centuries, beverages like beer or wine were welcome alternatives to water because they carried no deadly diseases. Now, however,... (full context)
Innovation and Competition Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Equality and Elitism Theme Icon
Drinking Spaces and Community Theme Icon
Standage concludes by reiterating that ordinary drinks like beer and Coke “tell stories” about history. Although drinking a coffee or a glass of wine... (full context)