Cracking open the history of beer and brewing in NZ
Food & Drink
Food & Drink

Cracking open the history of beer and brewing in NZ

Most days of the week you will find Greg Ryan at Lincoln University plying his trade as a History Professor but he has also recently published a book around another of his passions, beer.

Continuous Ferment: A History of Beer and Brewing in New Zealand covers the history of one of New Zealand's most iconic beverages, looking back at the origins of beer brewing in Aotearoa, dating back to Captain Cook's experiments with brewing. 

Ryan and REX host Dominic George discussed the evolution of beer strength over the centuries, including the historical period known as the '6 o'clock swill', and the rise of major breweries like Lion and DB. Ryan provided an interesting insight into the beer-drinking culture in New Zealand, revealing how the 1919 Prohibition referendums nearly brought the country to the brink of alcohol prohibition. 

He discussed the gradual societal changes in the 60s and 70s that ushered in a new era of beer drinking. Notably, Ryan highlighted how politicians struggled with adjusting the 6 o'clock law, the influence of overseas beer-drinking experiences, and the role of advertising in linking beer to young men. 

When it comes to how beer drinking was made abnormal, Ryan stressed the importance of reducing the stigma associated with it, noting how normalised beer consumption is in European countries like Germany as an example of where NZ would want to be.

"We probably need to understand how it was that some people made it abnormal...if we can just get back to it being normal, then that means it's not a drama," he said.

"It's not, you know, something you do for sport. It's just a normal thing that goes alongside of having dinner, having a conversation with a bunch of people. It's not a thing that exists in its own right." 

He also touched on the implications of regulating and banning alcohol, the different reactions to different types of alcohol, and the recent growth of craft brewing. The story behind the popular India Pale Ale and the impact of New Zealand's raw materials on beer production were also explored. 

Listen to the full chat between Greg Ryan and Dominic George above.

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