Blood, Sweat and Otter’s Tears….


Back in October 2015, we finally got the keys to 24 Queen Street here in Burslem, Stoke-On-Trent. An almost forgotten little shop/office on what used to be one of the towns busiest thoroughfares, home to the now derelict Indoor Market, once the bustling hive of the town.

Although Queen Street is much quieter these days, it still holds a host of hidden treasures, the stunning architecture of The Wedgwood Institute and School Of Art, an old hotel in need of renovation, a butchers, greetings card shop, Samaritans, two chemists, a wedding dress store, insurance broker, hairdresser, pubs, an Indian restaurant, takeaways, even a radio station.


But sadly there are lots of empty shops too, as with other town centres, a by-product of stores migrating to out-of-town retail parks or a move to internet retailing, plus of course the decline in manufacturing jobs especially here in the very heart of the Potteries.

So what made us choose here?

Well, for one we felt a genuine desire from local people to try to revive that heart, still beating, albeit with a feeble pulse. As with the old indoor market pictured below, old shop fronts still mothballed, public meetings organised to try to raise funds to bring it back to life and in use by the community in some form. Other buildings being renovated, cafés opening, even a hog roast shop, that in itself a good reason to locate here…

On top of all that though, we saw this place and felt with a bit of vision, a scattering of creative thinking to best use the odd space, a touch of madness, several car loads of paint and LOTS of hard work, we could breathe life into this sad neglected building and turn it into something to be proud of.

So over a period of about two months, with a little help from lots of people here and there, we grafted to bring the image in my head to life.

There is not a lot more to add here apart from a little photo narrative, but here in pictures is what we started with and where we ended up, in Otter’s Tears Beer Co.



First job, strip out upstairs, clean and paint EVERYTHING white, to give us a blank canvas.IMG_4798

Add a splash of colour and rip out that manky old carpet..


IMG_4834 IMG_4906 IMG_4909

Decoration complete, upstairs… Now to tackle that cellar!

This may seem a tad over the top, but believe me these walls were in a proper state, damp, crumbling mortar, the entire room needing scrubbing with a wire brush before being coated with sticky PVA to get a firm base to bond to.. img_4912 IMG_4913 IMG_4926One particular Saturday we had a bit of help wielding paintbrushes and rollers from Chris @ckdsaddlers, Michelle from OffBeat and Dave Shipman from Otherton Ales (he’s hiding somewhere)IMG_4930 IMG_4931

Enter James, my old mate from the Bespoke Trellis Company, who put his skills to work in a new direction for this job, cladding, building and shelf design and construction. James took my ideas, threw in a few of his own and basically after scribbling them down, made them appear, from trees, metal tubes and fixings, like magic!IMG_4951 I waxed wood…IMG_4957


Lots and lots of wood…IMG_4989 IMG_4993

IMG_4959 But gradually, things started to take shape.IMG_4960 Randomly turning up in the same shirts…IMG_4975 IMG_4977

IMG_4995 IMG_5030 IMG_5072 Ready for BEER!IMG_5115

I thought painting outside was going to be a piece of cake, but that arch is higher than it looks, that ladder is flimsier than it looks, that pavement slopes in all directions and we were having gales at the time. The only option was to bungy the ladder to the T-bar supports and on a particularly cold day, for Rach to spend hours gripping the bottom of the ladder, the shivers travelling up the ladder strings..IMG_5054 IMG_5056 IMG_5127 The logos as designed by Lemon Top Creative start to be applied by local sign-writer Mark from Poster Express. I was away fetching goodies in Yorkshire when these went up, it was a lovely moment when I first saw them in action, made it all seem very real. IMG_5203

IMG_5158The earlier mentioned goody fetching beer trip…
IMG_5189 IMG_5194 IMG_5195 IMG_5196 Lots of shelf space to fill… More beer arriving day after day.IMG_5204 IMG_5266 IMG_5270 IMG_5276

Shane, on a late night delivery…
IMG_5227 Fridges man-handed in, unwrapped, then returned after being mugged-off…

New fridges arrived, man-handled again, the genuine article this time from a new supplier.


More wood waxing.IMG_5234 Shelf filling.. IMG_5265 IMG_5271 Oh, there’s Mr Shipman, where else would you find him..IMG_5245IMG_5292

Shop front finished off…IMG_5218

Cellar finished off..IMG_5678 IMG_5680Finished article..IMG_5681

Three weeks in, we are doing well, lots of old friends have visited Otter’s Tears, lots of new friends too. Importantly though, people are walking past, doing a double take, then coming in to see what we are about. Exactly what we hoped for and in doing so, we hope it will inspire other people to come to Burslem to shop, even start a business of their own (and enjoy a good beer or two from us of course).

There is of course a lot more to come. Currently that tasting room isn’t open that much, mainly Saturdays and Vale home games, but that will change soon. We’ve lots of events in the pipeline, and LOTS of new and interesting beers due to hit those “hand-crafted” shelves.

Things are most definitely getting Otter…

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Address: Otter’s Tears Beer Co, 24 Queen Street, Burslem, STOKE ON TRENT ST6 3EG’s+Tears+Beer+Company/@53.0446984,-2.2002328,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x487a42948b962f69:0x86b4cffcf9be8021

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! 🍺

Mug Shots #coffee

Steve LeightonIt’s a slight departure from beer talk today, looking at coffee, more specifically at Stephen Leighton‘s weekly video blog “In My Mug” for his Staffordshire based coffee company Has Bean.

It is fair to say that I am a bit of a coffee geek, and I do think that there are lots of similarities to be found in picking out the aroma, flavours, mouthfeel and sometimes bitterness of a decent fresh brewed coffee as there are in beer, they sort of go hand in hand. Which sort of explains one of Steve’s other online activities with a weekly podcast with roasting pal Roland, SARBP (Steve and Rolands Beer Podcast).

Two reasons for this today, one is revenge! 😉 “Well, not really”. Purely a bit of fun (I hope), which came into my head after Steve invaded my dreams last night. He turned up at my house in a white van driven by a tall, bald, moustachioed chap. He handed me five white 100g bags of mystery coffee, he wouldn’t tell me what it was or how much it was going to cost, but I handed him a £100 note and he disappeared. Damn that coffee must have been special!

The other thought that spurred me on to post this was after watching this weeks In My Mug, which has become a bit of a Monday morning ritual for me when time allows. To explain, the show forms part of a subscription service offered by Hasbean, the coffee turns up on Saturday morning and the weekly show airs on the following Monday, talking coffee news, focussing on the delivered coffee’s origin country, farm, various tastings using different brewing methods and the infamous “map bit”. There are lots more to it than that, but you get the idea.

This week (episode 347), looked different somehow, at first I thought it was just a lack of the seemingly obligatory Sunderland outfit, but no, a new video camera upgrade it seems was the reason. But it got me wondering though as to what these shows looked like in their infancy as I only started to subscribe in the latter 200’s, so I started to do a little digging into the YouTube and Vimeo archives…

The results are really interesting, yes it’s funny watching Steve, younger obviously, but nervously pulling the first few shows together, especially when you see the confident flamboyant presenter he has become today. But seeing the show developing over time as that confidence grew along with the Has Bean company is where things really come into focus. Showing what a great idea, blogging and a good social media presence can really do for a business. Ideas come, and either stay and improve, or are discarded. Simple graphics and themes developing over time into a highly polished professional “tour de coffee”. It really is a remarkable transformation.

So, go grind some beans, brew up some “tasty and delicious drinks”, and take twenty minutes to reminisce, chuckle and most importantly see how it’s done.

Episode One…

Episode 7 (so many changes already)

Episode 100

Episode 156 – purely because I liked the opening sequence.

Episode 200 – Another milestone, more format changes and shiny new furniture

Episode 299 – with a great “Map Bit”

Steve will probably kill me for this (I hate reading my really old blog posts), and I expect a bottle of Camp Coffee with chicory in the post next Saturday instead of my usual delicious coffee beans. But if nothing else, please check Has Bean out, I’ve learned so much following this journey and drank some absolutely fabulous coffee, you should try some.

Here’s to episode 400, CHEERS!