Continuous Ferment: A History of Beer and Brewing in New Zealand

Greg Ryan

Author: Greg Ryan
Format: Paperback
Published: 9 November 2023
Pages: 380
Specs: 24.0cm x 17.0cm
ISBN: 9781869409876

Available in Ebook


The story of beer and brewing in Aotearoa from Speights to Parrotdog and beyond.

Since the first brew by Captain James Cook and the crew of the Resolution at Dusky Sound in April 1773, the story of beer has been deeply intertwined with the history of Aotearoa – from the early settlers’ prodigious consumption of golden ale to the six o’clock swill, from prohibition to the ‘Black Budget’, from the domination of Lion and DB to the rise of craft beer.

In this remarkable story of New Zealanders and beer, Greg Ryan tackles the big questions: Why did people drink and did they do so excessively by contemporary international standards? What did people drink and in what circumstances? How did tastes change over time? What role did brewers and publicans play in the community, other than as dispensers of alcohol?

Richly illustrated, astute and entertaining, Continuous Ferment is both a fascinating analysis of New Zealand’s social history and a book for anyone with an enthusiasm for malt and hops, barrels and bottles, pilsners and porters.



Greg Ryan is a history professor and proctor at Lincoln University. He is a fellow of the Australian Society for Sports History and author of Sport and the New Zealanders: A History (with Geoff Watson, Auckland University Press, 2018), winner of the Australian Society for Sports History Book Award 2019; The Contest for Rugby Supremacy: Accounting for the 1905 All Blacks (Canterbury University Press, 2005), The Making of New Zealand Cricket: 1832–1914 (Frank Cass, 2003) which won the 2005 Ian Wards Prize, and Forerunners of the All Blacks: The 1888–89 New Zealand Native Football Team in Britain, Australia and New Zealand (Canterbury University Press, 1993).



‘Greg Ryan’s book will be appreciated by all who enjoy good beer. At last, the flourishing New Zealand brewing scene has been matched by a thoughtful, wide-ranging, attractively illustrated history – from diversity to duopoly and back again.’

— Professor Jim McAloon, Victoria University of Wellington


‘Greg Ryan’s meticulous attention to detail and obvious love of beer come together to paint the most detailed history of New Zealand’s relationship with our favourite beverage. He captures the politics surrounding beer, the culture of drinking, the business of brewing and the passion of the craft revolution in a wonderfully illustrated, carefully curated book that should be compulsory reading for every beer drinker in the land.’

— Michael Donaldson, Pursuit of Hoppiness


‘Cleverly mixing stories and statistics in a manner that manages to both fully inform and entertain the reader without ever blurring the lines between anecdote and fact, Continuous Ferment is a complete and timely summary of the history of brewing in Aotearoa New Zealand. It brings together previous literature with unpublished archival material in an approachable form. I challenge you to open any page and not be drawn into the entertaining history of New Zealand brewing: a history of rogues and inventors, big business power and small business determination, national debate and social upheaval. It’s a great story that is uniquely ours.’

Ralph Bungard, Three Boys Brewery


‘This book offers an in-depth account of beer and brewing in New Zealand. It explores why people drank, what they drank, the role of brewers and publicans in New Zealand’s past, and the role of prohibitionists and temperance advocates. It touches on changes in agriculture and horticulture, has a lot to say about business and politics, and counters many of the myths and exaggerations in the country’s history writing.

Continuous Ferment is a significant contribution to New Zealand’s social history – and it is also a book for beer drinkers and afficionados. They will be surprised about the long journey of IPA and its relationship with the East India Company. They will note with interest the absence of a strong home brewing tradition in nineteenth-century New Zealand. They will learn a lot about big business and brewing, and feel vindicated that they like craft beer and home brew. I feel sure that many will raise a glass as they enjoy this full-bodied account.’

— Professor Caroline Daley, the University of Auckland