Now for something completely different…

Weirdly, almost two years to the day, something happened that would in time, go on change my life’s path completely. I don’t want to dwell on it too much as it led to some very tough times and hard battles, but lets just say that it involved too many straws, a camel, and it most definitely gave me the hump!

IMG_4621Thankfully those days are long gone, but towards the end of that last road I started to think it was time to make a break and move on, but what could I do?

Beer seemed the most logical answer, not drinking it, although clearly that helped, but a career within the industry would at least give me a chance to do something I know a little about and would hopefully enjoy.

I suppose I could have gone out and hawked a CV around breweries, beer distributors or whatever in the hope that somebody had a vacancy, but the thought of knocking on doors of friends, saying “giz a job, I can do that”, didn’t really feel appropriate. Besides, I have always harboured a dream of doing something for myself and this seemed like an opportunity to take that leap of faith and do just that. So with that in mind, the help, love and patience of the wife and the gentle nudge/shove of some reassuring friends and family, I started to look at opening a specialist beer shop.

Location was a tricky one. For several years I have wished and pushed for more choice in my home city Stoke On Trent, which for a long time seemed to be being left behind in terms of the new trends sweeping most of the country. In more recent times though that has changed, Stoke now has quite a few establishments who are prepared to push the boundaries of choice for something “less traditional” shall we say, with more and more opening month on month. With this in mind it made sense to us to stay local, where we knew there is a growing interest and we have friends to help us get started, so we opted for Burslem, Stoke’s “Mother Town”.

Thoughts then turned to a name, I decided I wanted something different from the traditional type names, thought-provoking even, be that in a knowing smile or a “what the bleedin’ hell does that mean” sort of way. A memorable name that hopefully would get folk talking, although I may live to regret that having already had to explain it to banks, insurers, council staff and many more.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, many people have inspired me to write over the years but from that great bunch of people, nobody made me laugh as much as Simon Johnson, the Reluctant Scooper. He could take a serious subject or equally a nonsensical argument and come up with something witty whilst still getting a point across, be that in a simple tweet or a full-blown blog post. Although Simon passed away in 2013, I still find myself returning to his blog time and again, a memory stirs from somewhere that has me reaching into cyberspace to find the post I’m looking for and it is inevitably one of his.

It was at such a moment that inspiration for the name came to me, although clearly not the credit. The question, “What to me encapsulates the new and exciting buzz that is gripping the beer world, without actually using the words craft?” For the answer, my mind immediately turned to the words of Simon’s “Craft Beer Manifesto” specifically the use of “distilled otters tears”!

“Craft beer is where you find it. Where you find it depends on how you define it.
How you define it? That’s your call.
There will never – never – be agreement in the UK as to what ‘craft beer’ really means.
So let’s just drink good beer and have some fun” 

If you’ve not read it, do it now, the link is above and perhaps linger awhile. Basically it was a tongue in cheek dig at those waging a war of words back then, over what was or was not craft beer. Nothing much has changed of course in terms of defining the C word, but the words of wisdom in Simon’s manifesto clearly tickled me enough to make it commit to memory, so Otters Tears it was.


Thornbridge Brewery

Of course that was only the beginning, the name existed already, as a brew created by Thornbridge and the IndyMan crew as a fitting tribute to Simon and of course there was Rebecca Johnson, Simons wife to think of too, how would they all take to the idea?

Apprehensively approaching the brewers first, thankfully I found my nervousness unfounded as the powers that be at both Thornbridge and IndyMan were equally supportive of the idea and gave their blessing gladly. Rebecca however, found me out before I got the chance to show her what we were planning to do. This tweet setting my heart racing I can tell you..

That’ll teach me to stop putting things off! ;)

When we caught up the following morning Rebecca, was happy, sad, moved, ecstatic, emotionally joyful at the prospect if I’ve summed that up correctly, and loves the support and continuing friendship of her “beer family”. We’ve had lots of little DM chats since then and I’m delighted that she is as excited as we are at the prospect. I just hope we can do it justice, one thing is assured, we will try our best.

We sincerely hope that you guys out there in the beer world are on board and get it too.

So, the wheels are now fully in motion. We have found a small starter unit in Burslem that will need a lot of creative TLC to get it looking something like my vision. Our hope is that we can create a place where you can find the best beers around, then either take them away or sample some on site in a relaxing atmosphere. Nothing groundbreaking these days about that concept I know, as many similar places exist, but that only proves that it can and does work.

Otters-Tears-LogoOur logo was designed by Andy Mogg and his ever patient team at Lemon Top, who after many interventions and changes of heart from me, managed to capture what was in my head and bring it to life. I really like it and hope you do too. (Cheers Andy)

*Disclaimer: No comedy otters were used in the making of this branding..

Otters-Tears-IconV2-360pxWe don’t have a Facebook page set up as yet, it will be coming soon, but you can catch up with us on Twitter via @otterstears

More news as things develop and time allows during the hard  work that lies ahead. For now though I’d like to thank everyone who has listened patiently to me wittering on about this for yonks, you’ve answered daft questions, given me endless amounts of much needed advice, listened to my moans and groans and no doubt those daft questions again. No names mentioned (yet), much love to you all though.

Wish me luck!

The big three double O..

300xThis is my 300th post, a bit of a milestone for me and long overdue. Much in beer has changed since I first sat down and decided to start blogging under the Beersay handle around five or six years ago..

Brewdog opened their first bar in Aberdeen sometime during my first year in blogging proper. My own first visit to a new-fangled “craft beer” bar came I think a year or so later when I walked through the doors of Mr Foley’s in Leeds. 

Mr Foley’s rapid rise to fame came largely in my view at least, as a result of the vision of it’s then manager Dean Pugh. His potential quickly spotted, @BrewDogBarDean as he is now known, became manager at Brewdog Manchester, before helping to establish the brands UK flagship 40-tap bar in Shepherds Bush. Then bringing the timeline bang up to date. Only a few weeks ago, Dean packed his bags and moved to Berlin, and he’s not just going over to watch better football. 

Although saying that, currently the only team doing “wurst” than his is my own.

In that time of course Brewdog’s massive expansion has been mirrored by a huge rise facial growths of the beardy variety, many other things grown too, breweries, bars, beer columns in the press, full-on “quality” beer publications, podcasts, twitter beer shows, blogs and more.

Beer Festivals are no longer purely the domain of brown, there is a now veritable rainbow of colour choice, cloudy is acceptable and if a beer is sour, it won’t necessarily always mean “it’s off, sorry I’m sending it back”.

The once awful catchphrase uttered by a landlord, “here’s a fruit based drink for your good lady” doesn’t have to mean he’s being sexist, but only if he’s just handed you a bourbon barrel aged imperial apricot and mango saison. If not, he’s still a twat.

Beer is on TV, hooray! OK it still needs work and will get better, but it’s getting there.

Loads of the beer writers that inspired me to write also have moved on. Some have written books, become beer sommeliers, taken jobs in breweries, STARTED breweries, launched enormously successful beer festivals, opened bars, shops etc. Some have done pretty much all of the above.

Personally speaking I certainly don’t write as much now as I once did and there are many reasons for that. So many more folk doing it better than I do being one that immediately springs to mind. But that is a good thing too, as clearly with more being written by more people, beers popularity has risen enough to enthuse more people to be passionate about it in whatever fashion they see fit.

I definitely get a buzz about it still, especially when folk comment or say that I have inspired them in some way, or even if they just tell me I’ve written a complete load of tosh, as at least I know they bothered to take time out to read it.

If nothing else, I have made so many new and good friends over the years, not just drinking buddies, people I truly class as long-term close friends, people I trust and can (and do) confide in, go to for help and get it, help back, have a moan at or with, or just plain have a laugh and get drunk next to. Inspirational people in some way all of them.


But the times they are a changing, as old Bobby Dylan once scribbled: and I have exciting news. Things are about to change for me too

Exciting, scary things..


Things are about to get otter, but I’ll tell you more about that in a day or so..


#BigBeeryNight – @BeerOClockShow

11722623We all love doing something “for charridy mate”, not aarf! But of late, never a month seems to go by without beer or alcohol in general getting a bit of a bashing as a tool for doing so.

People are encouraged to abstain from their favourite beverage for a month with events like #Dryathlon, #DryJanuary, #GoSoberForOctober, and “Don’t Go On A Bender In November” (OK, maybe I made the last one up), with a view to being sponsored for doing so to raise money for some excellent charities.

I have no problem with that in principle, and with MacMillan Cancer Support especially in mind as being very close to my heart, clearly wholeheartedly approve. But, this constant use of beer as a fundraising tool, must impact on the industry, especially with smaller businesses. I think is beginning to lose its impact through overuse, which is where this idea came from.

“Rather than stop drinking for charity, why not have a drinking event, where people give to a charity FOR DRINKING!”

With this in mind, I got chatting to Steve over at the Beer O’Clock Show this morning. He liked the idea; and from that spark, fanned by his MASSIVE enthusiasm, it grew and the event was born in a few hours. Steve quickly set up the Just Giving page and has written his own post here.beershowlogo

logoClearly out aim is not to go out against MacMillan or anyone else, so with that in mind we decided on a date that coincides with their “Worlds Biggest Coffee Morning” that being Friday 25th September 2015 to host our own way of supporting the cause.

So after you have had your coffee and cake fix, you can sit back and wait to enjoy “Big Beery Night”.

The basic idea is this. You have a drink (or drinks) on Friday evening, and post pictures of your beer, or you AND your beer, using the hashtag #BigBeeryNight. This is then your pledge to then donate the equivalent cost of your beer(s) to our Just Giving page.

We have set a target of just £1000, but with your help we hope to absolutely smash that!

So what can you do to help?

Well, obviously, join in, have a beer or two, post your pictures to twitter, Facebook or whatever. Use the #BigBeeryNight and donate to the page.

Big Beery Night

Share the link!

Bloggers and beer writers, write your own posts, share the love, get the message out there that beer drinkers care too, lets smash this target together.

Host a bottle share, with a kitty for beers thrown in.

Untappd badge fines, for some top-level badgewankery.


Here’s that date for your diaries again.

Friday 25th September 2015

Big Beery Night –


Macc To Basics in Pictures

As has become customary over the last few years, rather than writing anything up; I’m posting a few pictures taken over the course of the day; plus a few tweets from the #MaccToBasics hashtag.

To summarise, probably the most laid back of the three Twissups in Macclesfield so far, but still a good crowd of around 50 people at its height; and very enjoyable. Maybe we can liven things up a bit next year, just maybe…


Getting some practice in…


Sun trap in The Wharf beer garden


Cellar aged beverages being served at The Wharf


RedWillow Brewhouse


Rob doing what I didn’t do much of, TWEET!


Freedom Olly in full flow


Molly, flipping Frosty’s burgers


Youngest twissuper ever, currently awaiting adjudication…


What I like to see, a good meat to bun ratio..


intense concentration..


Three amigos


Marble Stu, undertaking quality control procedures


Mmmmmmm, Great North “Breakfast Pie” at The Treacle Tap

Thanks again to all involved in making this happen; especially those who gave up their time to work, and the good folk that came along to enjoy the day.

Cheers all! 🍺

Macc To Basics – Route and Timings #Twissupdate

twissupReeto! It is now officially Macclesfield Twissup Eve…

I’ve been up against it today time wise, so apologies that this is a little later than planned. Below is basically a rough timetable for the day, but as always nothing is carved in stone, especially this year. So expect a leisurely wander, to great places with lovely folk, drinking ace beer.

All timings are approximate and all beers listed as being on are subject to change; as beer sometimes can be unpredictable. This is a quick rundown, a snapshot if you will, of some of the beverages that await you…

*Saturday 22nd August 2015*

Our first stop, Treacle Tap is easy to find. Walking out of Macclesfield train station, turn left down the bank onto Sunderland Street (No 43), the bar is 2 minutes walk and is on the right hand side, walking away from the station as you look at it.

Treacle Tap – 11am-12:45

Marble Brewery tap takeover, informal meet the brewer session. Great North Pie Co “Breakfast Pie.

RedWillow Brewery – 12:45-14:45

Faithless XLV, a New Zealand Hopped Brett IPA mini-launch. Faithless 44 Dry Hopped Pilsner, Directionless (or Wreckless tbc). Toby Mckenzie cremating meat.

(Gunco Lane)

The Wharf 15-16:45

Cellar aged Cheshire Brewhouse “Smokehouse Porter” (12 months), and Anarchy Quiet Riot IPA (a little less). Further cask and keg offerings.

(107 Brook Street)

RedWillow Bar 17-00 – 19:00/till late

Roosters Baby Faced Assassin, Salopian Kashmir, Mikkeller Crooked Moon and many, many more…

(32a Park Green St)

Brewtique – Bottle Bar and Taphouse 11AM – 11PM (all day) then general wanderings from RWB roughly 19:00 onwards

Four keg taps, full bottle menu. Lots of SOURs, see here.

(8 Market Place)

To confirm this is not a ticketed event, anyone can come along. It would be great if you can join us for the whole day, but if not you should find us in the vicinity of the venues at the above times. Share the love using the #MaccToBasics hashtag on twitter, have fun.

See you at 11am in The Treacle Tap, I have a hot date with a breakfast pie..


RedWillow Brewery, Bar and Grill #Twissupdate #MaccToBasics

Basic CMYKAs with previous events, one of the highlights of any Twissup is the brewery visit. It’s a chance to chill out, have wander around the brewery, ask stupid questions, point, poke and sniff things.

RedWillow are welcoming us all again, giving old and new a sneak preview of the new huge brewhouse, which is rapidly progressing to being operational (ish).

We have a few treats for you here, including the unofficial mini-launch of Faithless XLV, a New Zealand Hopped Brett IPA, which sounds WONDERFUL! Hopefully Faithless 44 Dry Hopped Pilsner and we think either Directionless or Wreckless (tbc).


I am also reliably informed that Toby is bringing along his BBQ, which was described as being “like a spaceship”! The man himself will be manning the flight deck and burning things for your delight (maybe Smokeless would have been a good idea), no other men (or women) of course will be allowed to touch or even look even slightly lovingly at the BBQ, as it is like being unfaithful, please bear this in mind as you approach..

IPL badgeOlly Clarke from Freedom Brewery will be with us and is hoping to bring along a few samples of their new IPL, plus a few other bits to hand out as samples, (assuming he is still able to speak and has control of his limbs at this point). Don’t hang about though as neither will last long..

Down at RedWillow Bar later in the day, a suitably well stuffed beer menu will await you. Including fresh on for the day, two of my all time favourite beers, Roosters gorgeous “Baby Faced Assassin” and Salopian’s delightful “Kashmir”, plus Mikkeller’s “Crooked Moon DIPA” which sounds dangerously good.

mikkeller-crookedRedWillow Bar will also have “Fearless” T-shirts for sale on the bar, priced at £15 each, but sadly will not serving food as it is just too busy to make this practical on a day like this, however if you have the munchies, do have snacks, plus there are plenty of takeaways nearby.

I’ve written this in a bit of a rush, so hope I haven’t missed anything (shout up if I have). A full run down of the route and timings will be up later at around 6pm.

Please share, tell your friends, come along and enjoy what is normal a fantastic day of beer!



Brew(tique) kid on the block! #Twissupdate #MaccToBasics

Blimey! It’s Thursday already, only two days to our little “bimble” around Macclesfield’s finest. I’d better get sharing some info..

As with last year, our intention is to follow a similar route and timings, Treacle Tap, RedWillow brewery, The Wharf and RedWillow Bar, a copy of the timings to follow (probably Friday). But, we have a rather pleasant problem, another stop to fit in to the itinerary, but when?

logoBrewtique, already worth a visit, recently relocated.  Outgrowing their small but perfectly formed earlier home, they packed up and shifted further up into town on Market Place (No8).

This move however gave them more options to spread out, expand the range and include a “drink in” option to their offering to customers. More space, bottle fridges and four lovely keg fonts of joy, one sour, one dark and two “other”.

Anticipated offerings on Saturday (subject to availability):

  • Boon – 2 year old Lambic
  • Arbor – Nitro Stout
  • Lervig – Lucky Jack
  • Offbeat/Otherton – Triplette Saison
  • Kegs “next up”, (should the above go) Troubadour – Gollem IPA, Thornbridge – Cocoa Wonderland, Beavertown – Gamma Ray, Kona Longboard Lager.
  • Fully stocked bottle/can fridges (over 150 beers)
  • Belgian and International Sours (see lists below, again subject to availability)

I attended the opening night recently and any fears over lack of space soon faded. The place feels airy and has some really interesting features including this super cool cellar space, soon to see tasting sessions and already home to a stack of ageing lambics, Orval etc.

IMG_3613 IMG_3610

So what is the problem, well, although they have moved from the previous semi-mountainous site, 8 Market Place is a little “off-piste” (yes, piste) in terms of our route, making it difficult to have a dedicated time slot.

The guys at Brewtique have therefore agreed to basically say look, we are open all day from 11am to 11pm for anyone who wants to pop in (it is only about 5 minutes walk from the train station) plus, it opens options for breakouts from RedWillow Bar at busy times being only a short walk away, and the extra place to visit afterwards, be that for locals or folks homeward bound by train. Please pay them a visit, I know I intend to.

Brewtique – 8 Market Pl, Macclesfield, Cheshire East SK10
01625 503228


See you at the bar…