Battling contract brewer plots relaunch

L-R: Former Icon Brewing head brewer, Dave Brough, and founder Chris Lee in 2015

A dispute between a Sydney-based contract brewer and its former packaging partner has progressed to the Supreme Court of NSW.

Icon Brewing ground to a halt earlier this year when it was locked out of the premises it shared with Boka Beverages, the contract packaging company established in 2014.

A dispute had arisen over the fees paid by Icon for access to Boka’s facilities, which Icon used to package beers it produced on behalf of various customers including Young Henrys, Balmain Brewing and Urban Craft Brewing Company.

On August 11 Icon Brewing and a related entity, Melhelm Pty Ltd, filed legal proceedings seeking orders that Boka Beverages and the affiliated Boka Investments Pty Ltd be required to release Icon’s brewing equipment from its warehouse in Prestons, south west Sydney.

NSW summons
The summons filed by Icon in the Supreme Court of NSW sought interlocutory orders that the Boka companies be restrained “from selling, transferring, using, encumbering, removing or otherwise dealing with any items of beer brewing and associated equipment”.

Icon and Melhelm also seek final orders that the Boka companies “forthwith deliver up the equipment to the plaintiffs”, as well as “damages for the detention and/or conversion in respect of the equipment”.

The contract brewer was due to file a Statement of Claim by September 29, with Boka’s defence due 28 days after that.

Icon has declined to comment on the NSW dispute, while the Boka companies did not respond to requests for comment.

An initial directions hearing was scheduled for late September. No date has been set for the substantive hearing, which may be some way off if they are unable to settle the dispute in the meantime.

New premises
Meanwhile, Icon has leased a warehouse in Minto, western Sydney, where it applied to Campbelltown City Council on March 21 for development consent to establish the brewery once it is able to be released from Prestons.

The company has reportedly sourced its own packaging line that is already in place at the new premises.

This expenditure has drawn the ire of two prominent brewing industry suppliers that are owed significant sums of money by Icon, and have repeatedly been promised payments that have never eventuated.

Proud Icon Brewing customer, Balmain Brewing founder Glenn Cary at the Prestons brewery in 2015

Energy dispute
Icon Brewing also faced an application for a winding up order lodged by energy supplier AGL, which was heard by the Victorian Supreme Court last month.

“AGL and Icon Brewing have reached a settlement outside of court. Our arrangements with the customer are confidential,” an AGL spokesperson told Brews News.

Icon co-founder Chris Lee told Brews News the dispute with AGL relates to bills wrongly charged that related to the former tenant, collapsed contract beverage maker Fizz Bizz.

He confirmed the matter has been settled on terms that require Icon to complete a payment plan by early November. In the meantime, the winding up application remains on the ASIC website.

Lee said Icon remains optimistic of gaining access to its brewery and recommencing trading in the new premises. He said all money owed to suppliers will be repaid.

The parties are scheduled to appear in the Supreme Court of NSW on October 18 for their second directions hearing before the Equity Registrar.

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