I’m pleased to see it has stood the test of time, as discussions around liquor licensing are as much a news item as they were in the 1940’s!

Anyway, over to Neil.



The hospitality trade in New Zealand probably began about five seconds after the first settlement was established.  People always need shelter, food and refreshment.  Inns, hotels and pubs have a long and storied history in New Zealand and it is interesting to see how far the trade has evolved. 

Over the last hundred years, we have moved from horse-drawn drays delivering barrels of ale locally to being able to buy hundreds of beers from around the world.

The six o’clock swill has been surpassed by late night opening on Courtenay Place where only the terminally unfashionable are even awake before 6pm.  Even today the swill is a national disgrace. I run boutique beer tours around Wellington and most overseas tourists refuse to believe that six o’clock closing ever existed. Their response is to say “well, it is so obvious that would never work, no-one could possibly be that stupid” but the simple answer is “yes, yes, we could be, for 50 years too.”  The legislation was in force from 1917 to 1967.

These historical reflections have been prompted by Bill Brien’s excellent book titled “100 Years of Hospitality in New Zealand 1902-2002”.  Bill is a legitimate legend in the hospitality industry and for many years ran Wellington’s underground Rose and Crown pub.  His research demonstrates the major changes in the trade, most – if not all – for the better.

In the 1940s, all members of the hospitality trade were directed to:
1. To take such steps as are considered necessary to bring about the rigid observance of the law in its entirety.
2. To reduce to a minimum drinking by Maoris on licensed premises and maintain the strictest supervision over off premises sales of liquor that my be intended for Maori consumption.
3. To prevent any indiscriminate meetings of men and women in hotel lounges etc and to aim at the complete abolition of excessive drinking by women.
4. To aim at the elimination of excessive drinking by members of His Majesty’s Forces in uniform and excessive off premises purchases of liquor by the said members.
5. To eliminate entirely the supply of liquor to youths under 21 years.

So, if you were a white guy over the age of 21 and not wearing a uniform you were pretty sweet when it came to excessive drinking. Even in the fifties women were still struggling to get a seat at the bar.  Bill records that two new chartered clubs in Palmerston North had been granted “permits for women to drink in the lounge area, with a member, between 5pm and 6pm.”

In addition, he notes that the “Palmerston North delegates had typed a late remit calling for a full enquiry into women in bars, but unfortunately in their haste they had made a small typing error.  Delegates were circulated with a typewritten remit calling for a ‘full enquiry and review of women in bras’ much to the mirth of the predominantly male audience.”  Clearly 1954 Palmerston North was not the “Knowledge City” we all admire and love today.

In keeping with this old-school vibe, Malthouse has obtained limited stocks of a very rare ale from London’s last remaining traditional family brewery.  For the last twelve years, Fuller’s have produced a limited-edition Vintage Ale. In 2008, just 145,000 bottles were produced and Malthouse has some. 

Fuller’s 2010 Vintage Ale (8.5%) is made with floor-malted Maris Otter barley, Challenger hops, Northdown hops and a unique yeast. It pours a rich orange-amber and throws a nose of fruit and honey.  A full, luxuriant beer, there are deep dark notes of orange, caramel, raisin and honey.  The high alcohol is evident but is warming rather than walloping. This is a beer to be savoured inside during the cold weather.(Any month apart from January. Sometimes.)

Finally, a big tip of the glass to Bruce H Robertson at the Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ) for providing this blog with a free copy of Bill Brien’s book.  Bruce is a fine advocate in Wellington for the entire hospo industry – he talks to politicians so his members don’t have to.


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


Bill Brien – http://www.hanz.org.nz/index.cfm/About_HANZ/100_Years_of_Hospitality
Fuller’s Vintage Ale – http://www.fullers.co.uk/rte.asp?id=66
HospitalityNZ – http://www.hospitalitynz.org.nz
Malthouse Facebook Group – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wellington/Malthouse/7084276173
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com/