Liquidators called in on Taranaki's Mike's Organic Brewery
Taranaki's pioneering craft beer company has been put into liquidation.
White Cliffs Organic Brewery Ltd, which operates Mike's Organic Brewery just north of Urenui, went into voluntary liquidation on Wednesday.
Owner Ron Trigg said the decision had been a long time coming and was largely due to a customs and excise debt accrued four to five years ago that the company could not pay.
"We got to a point where it wasn't responsible carrying on further," he said.
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Trigg would not specify how much the company owed but said the Customs Service was the largest creditor.
He said the decision to put the company into liquidation had been building since April when he meet with Customs Service to discuss his debt. He said he was told then that the additional duty on the original debt was more than the debt itself.
"We thought 'holy hell'. There is no way we are going to manage this," Trigg said.
It is the third Taranaki alcohol manufacturer to have gone into liquidation this year over unpaid excise duties.
Earlier this week New Plymouth's Cottage Wines Limited into liquidation over an unpaid debt of $14,625.25, most of which was related to excise duty. In April NZ Lepperton's Sentry Hill Winerywas placed into liquidation in April for an unpaid debt of about $130,000.
Trigg said the missed customs and excise payments happened when bank loans the company had were restructured during the global financial crisis.
At the same time he took the option of making excise duty payments biannually rather than monthly and missed several payments. While the brewer made subsequent excise duty payments it was unable to catch up on those it missed.
He said the decision to go into liquidation had been a frustrating one as the company had been making good profits in the last two years.
The brewery was founded in 1989 by Mike Johnson and bought by Trigg in 2007, when it produced just two beers.
It now has has a line of 11 beers including the original Mike's Mild Ale. It is available in bars, liquor stores and Foodstuff supermarkets throughout the country.
"We put a lot of blood and sweat into it, no question about it. And lots and lots of people have helped us and worked really really hard for us," Trigg said.
Trigg said a company he started two years ago, Mike's Holdings Ltd, was looking to purchase some of the equipment and stock from the liquidators so they could carry on.
"It's a question of if we are able and the values stack up and we have enough resources so we would be able to purchase the stock."
Taranaki's regional Society of Beer Advocates (Soba) coordinator Warwick Foy said the brewery was one of the oldest and most influential craft brewers in the country.
"It made it possible for people to see you could brew. You didn't have to be one of the two big breweries," Foy said.
He said in the last 10 years, with Trigg at the helm, the brewery had expanded its range significantly.
"They have kept up and at times led the rise of craft beer in New Zealand," he said.
Liquidator John Scutter confirmed the directors and shareholders decided to put the company into liquidation because it could not meet obligations it had to its creditors.
Scutter said the brewery at Urenui was still operating as liquidators looked at ways to get as much value for creditors as they could.
"We recognise the brand is a long standing brand. It's one of the first craft beer brands in the country. It's something we don't want to lose," he said.