August 30th, 2013 by Crafty Pint
There was a collective gasp – and no little sadness – around the craft beer world when, earlier this year, word spread that Temple had gone into voluntary liquidation. The East Brunswick based brewery had developed a great reputation based on brewer Ron Feruglio’s beers and had been planning to expand distribution across Australia. So it was a shock to hear that the business had stopped operating and that the owners were locked out of the building they’d only opened in December 2011.
Then, a few weeks ago, amid rumours that there had been 50 or more parties interested in buying the business from the liquidators, word reached The Crafty Pint that the Feruglio’s bid to buy their brewery back – which had been their intention from day one – was likely to be the successful one. And today we’re delighted to announce that, with new partners on board, the couple have succeeded and formed a new company that will trade once again as Temple Brewing Company. All matters were settled with the liquidators last week, which allowed them – and the main partner in the new operation, Nick Pang – to meet with us today and announce that they’re back and have big plans for the future.
“It’s a massive sense of relief,” says Ron. “It’s been very hard to weather 16 weeks of uncertainty. It’s been a long process and has taken its toll on everyone.”
The months of turmoil stemmed from a disagreement between the Feruglios and their former business partner. They had been introduced to Nick, who was interested in investing in the company and helping them embark on significant expansion, but their original partner was set against this and, after weeks of intransigence, the Feruglios had no option but to go into voluntary liquidation with the intention to try to buy back in with a new business formed with Nick. This opened them up to the risk that they could be outbid, although once it became clear that they hoped to return, a number of potential buyers walked away to allow them a freer run.
“We really rolled the dice big time,” says Ron.
Thankfully for them, when the result was announced, their offer was successful. Now they are back in the brewery on Weston Street and beginning to piece the business back together, assisted by the fact that their entire staff has stayed with them and also that Nick, formerly of PricewaterhouseCoopers, will take over much of the business and financial side of the operation, leaving Ron to brew and Renata to focus on branding.
They hope to have a new liquor license approved in the next fortnight, which will allow brewing to recommence. When it does, there will be a mixture of old favourites, a new “volume beer” to sit alongside the Bicycle Beer and, of course, more concoctions from the outer reaches of Ron’s imagination. It means there is still some time to go before beer is back in pubs and longer still until they have enough to reopen their venue, particularly as they had to destroy the 12,500 litres of beer that was in tank, keg and bottle when they opted for voluntary liquidation.
“Because of the way excise tax is set up, the liquidator couldn’t sell the site to me with alcohol attached to it,” explains Nick. “To be able to get to where we are now, we had to throw the alcohol away.”
It was a particularly low moment for Ron.
“Twelve and a half thousand litres of beer, including the XII [a barleywine he had been ageing and which was just about to be released as the first beer in their Signature Series], had to be poured away,” he says. “I had to empty every tank, every keg. We had to take every carton and pop the top off every bottle and pour it all away. I cried.”
They weren’t even able to keep a bottle of the XII for themselves, which meant the only 12 bottles in existence were those given to the dozen people who attended its exclusive launch. Some have been consumed, but a couple of those still in possession of unopened bottles have told Renata they’ll bring theirs to the brewery when it reopens to share with them. It’s just one example among many of the support they have received.
“We want to thank the beer drinkers and brewers, all of whom have texted, tweeted, emailed or called with their support,” says Ron. “That’s given us a lot of strength; the response has been quite overwhelming.”
Once the beer is flowing once again, expect to see much more of it around Australia in partnership with their distributor Phoenix. New tanks are on the way, plus a bottling line, keg cleaner and labelling machine. Nick says the people he has brought into the new business are “very well resourced” and the intention is to embark on a road trip around Australia to get Temple into more venues and also to explore the South East Asian market via his contacts there. What’s more, relationships with key suppliers and partners that they dealt with as the old Temple have been maintained with the new one and they are finally in a position to respond to any questions people have for them.
As for why Nick, with no prior knowledge of craft beer, decided to invest in Temple, he says: “First of all, it was the people: I could see their vision. [Also] the craft beer industry is very much in its infancy, so I could see opportunity.”
He also says the widespread support the Feruglios received from inside and outside the industry “showed me who I was going into business with.”
The new Temple will feature some rebranding – more evolution than revolution by the sound of things – plus a different approach to the venue itself. Expect a more laid back feel both upstairs and down – sofas, bean bags, DJs a couple of nights a week and so on – as well as a new menu, expanded drinks list including boutique spirits and wines, and a guest tap that will feature the very best beers they can lay their hands on.
“It will be a tap of honour!” says Ron.
On a personal note, we’re delighted to see Ron and Renata back in business. In the short time they were operating, The Crafty Pint had become involved in a number of projects with them, including the People’s Pint and the setting up of the Temple / Good Beer Week Scholarship, which we’re pleased to announce will still go ahead – expect an announcement in the next fortnight. It turns out that we’re actually in some way responsible for the past few months too, as it was us that first introduced Temple to Matt Gaffney of business evolution specialist Enindico, who in turn brought Nick into the picture.
Now we can look forward to the return of Midnight IPA and much more besides, which is as good a way as any to end the week. So to Ron, Renata, Nick and the rest of the team at the new Temple: “Cheers! And good luck!”
The photo at the top is a remake of the one we took when they first opened, albeit with a few new faces, including Nick Pang far left.