Merry Samhain

doorstep lgIt’s that time of the year when ghouls and witches get together (no, not the usual Friday night in the pub…) to celebrate all things Halloween! Also known as All Hallows Eve, and in Scotland, Samhain, which is the name of the Gaelic festival that marks the end of harvest season and the start of Winter – the Celtic New Year. Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from sunset on the 31st October until sunset on 1st November – a time that signals the ‘dark’ half of the year beginning. It’s a time to be thankful for (hopefully) a plentiful harvest, and prepare for Winter. It’s also around the time of the Roman festival which honours Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees, normally symbolised as an apple.

Certainly at Thistly Cross, based in East Lothian on the East coast of Scotland we’ve noticed the seasonal change. The leaves are turning all kinds of yellow and orange, the nights are closing in and the harvest is starting to diminish (but we still want your late apples if you have any spare, so please do bring them down to our friends at Belhaven Fruit Farm and exchange them for cider or apple juice!)

autumn leaves

Across the world, Halloween is a time to indulge in all kinds of spooky delights – we carve out turnips (and more latterly, pumpkins) into faces and light candles inside, we ‘dook’ for apples floating in water, and we dress up as all manner of terrifying deathly beings and ‘trick or treat’ for a sweet reward. All are linked to Pagan traditions surrounding the ancient festival, witchcraft and magic… the 31st October is the one night of the year when the curtain between our world and the spirit world is said to be at its thinnest, so the ghosts of the deceased can mingle with the living. Ancient superstitions warn that visiting ghosts can disguise themselves in human form at this time, and knock on your door requesting food or money. But beware, if you turn them away empty-handed, you risk being cursed or even worse, haunted! doorstep cuHistorically in Scotland, apples and other food were buried at the sides of roads for those lost souls who couldn’t find their way home on the scariest night of the year, and apples were a popular gift to leave on doorsteps to feed and please the newly risen. It’s no accident these harvest fruits feature so prominently in Halloween and Samhain traditions – they’re not just delicious to eat and drink!

East Lothian has long links with ancient traditions including witchcraft, as witnessed by some of the relics dotted around the area. One of the most famous is in a place called Spott, around 3 miles from Thistly HQ, which saw the last witch executions in East Lothian. One of the accused, known as the Rigwoody Witch, was said to have been burnt to death at The Witches Stone here. In fact, Witch-hunting lasted longer in East Lothian than almost anywhere else in Scotland, and between 1593 and 1705, the Dunbar area brought more than 70 suspected witches and warlocks to trial. The name of Thistly Cross itself originates from an area on the farm called Thistly Bank where witches were burned at the stake. Another famous local case in 1589 saw witches from Prestonpans, Tranent and North Berwick accused of attempts to kill King James VI of Scotland.

witch stone

But October isn’t all dark and mystical history and tradition, Autumn is the perfect time to consider moving on from Summery flavours and start enjoying those particularly well-suited to the cooler weather like our Whisky Cask and Real Ginger. And it’s also when we mash and press most of our apple harvest, including your donated fruit, into new batches of apple-juice to begin their Thistly journey, ready for 2016. It’s cider season folks!

(sm) multi cocktailsSo in celebration of this weekend’s Samhain celebrations we’ve put a little bit of a fun twist on some traditional cider cocktails for any lost souls abroad amongst us.

Merry Samhain and Happy Halloween from all at Thistly Cross!


  • Medium to large glass of hard cider (around a small bottle or half a 500ml bottle of Thistly Cross Cider; our Whisky Cask, Real Ginger or Original work well)
  • 1 teaspoon honey or brown sugar (to taste)
  • cinnamon stick
  • lemon or orange peel
  • couple tablespoons of your favourite Scotch whisky (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)

Heat the cider, honey (or sugar), cinnamon and lemon peel in a saucepan over medium heat; depending on the particular cider and whisky you choose you may need less or more added sweetness so start slowly – you can always add more as you go along! Stir for a few minutes until the honey has loosened (or sugar dissolved) and mixed in. Turn off heat, add the whisky and lemon juice, and stir gently to combine. Serve in a cup or glass (heatproof!) and garnish with cinnamon stick and citrus peel.


A simple, easy half in half of our Real Strawberry Cider with prosecco or sparkling wine. This is the perfect party drink; great for Autumnal afternoons or Wintry evenings, it’s light, refreshing and easily adaptable to whatever you have to hand. Add some slices of fresh fruit and sugar-encrusted berries for colour and fragrance, or pop in  grape or lychee ‘eyeball’. For an extra spooky touch, trail kir or strawberry/blackcurrant syrup into and around the glass.


First, choose your cider – we like something light and easy-drinking like a Thistly Cross Traditional; not too alcoholic at 4.4%, with fresh, appley flavours. Then, choose which fruit or botanical you’d like to ‘muddle’ in (that’s a posh word for ‘artfully mash’ really) – we like something with a little tartness like blueberries or raspberries. Gently muddle your chosen fruit in the glass (squash the little juicy blighters but don’t completely obliterate them!) then pour in your cider. If you get weird about ‘bits’ then a sieve is your best friend, but we rather like the punch-like texture of real fruit mixing with the alcohol. This mix is particularly good in large jugs for a party or event as the fruit gives your cider a different hue, as well as a berrylicious tang. If you want to get totally arty, then freeze some berries into your ice-cubes and add to the mix before serving. Regarding botanicals, a few muddled mint leaves are delicious with Real Strawberry Cider. Experiment with other herbs and spices: lavender, basil, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc for a warmer, spicier finish.

Thistly Cross celebrates successful apple appeal

ty tccFollowing the successful launch of our ‘bucket for a bottle’ scheme, we want to say a massive ‘thank you’ to apple growers all over Scotland, who have responded in their hundreds. Since September, when this year’s crowdsourcing appeal was launched, over 50 tonnes of apples have been exchanged for Thistly Cross Cider or apple juice. “It’s been an amazing harvest and lots of fun!” said Peter Stuart, Head Cidermaker.  “Good folk have come from all over Scotland to swap their apples for Thistly Cross Cider, bringing anything from a bucketful to a truckload of apples.”

Using Scottish apples is at the core of Thistly’s philosophy.  Scotland is home to more than 200 apple varieties and it’s this blend of Scottish heritage apples that gives Thistly its unique flavour profile.  “We want to give hardy Scottish apples the credit they deserve!” said Peter, “Thistly has always considered itself to be an innovative company.  We’re always developing new product ideas, including limited edition ciders and collaborations.  The apples that we get from the public help us to keep doing this, as well as meeting our increasing demand, nationally and globally – without compromising on quality.”

To celebrate the appeal’s success, we’re offering a 10% discount on our online shop to customers who use the code THANKYOU2015 – valid until the end of November for orders placed on the Thistly Cross online shop.

And remember, it’s not too late to get involved with the cider swap; there are still a few weeks of the apple season left. We’re still welcoming apple donations in exchange for Scottish cider or apple juice at:

The Store, Belhaven Fruit Farm, Thistly Cross Roundabout, Dunbar, EH42 1RG


Indyman 2015: Manchester 8th-11th Oct

TCC_cask stack stencilled wsiteIndyman, how we love you, let us count the ways (and days – only 1 more to be precise until the 2015 Manchester good-times begin!)

One of our favourite beer and cider events, Peter is already on his way with a very packed cider wagon and many Thistly cohorts to help man the cider bar. We’ll be beside local faves Moss Cider and the Real Cider Co so when you need a break from all that beer, you know where to head.

This year, we’re not just bringing the cider noise, we’ve also got a couple of secrets up our sleeves. So you’ll find plentiful supplies of our core varieties: Original, Traditional, Real Strawberry, Real Elderflower, Whisky Cask (matured in ex-Glen Moray casks), and Real Ginger alongside our Farmhouse Scrumpy Jaggy Thistle, and Slyrs Whisky Cask which is our limited edition Bavarian-Highland collab. And to top it all…

tempest saisonWe have a brand new and very special collaboration with our friends, Tempest Brew Co…

Indyman 2015 will see the launch of a new Saison made with crazy yeast and fermented with a whole lot of apple-juice and oak-cask love.

Coming in at a magnificent 8.4% ABV, it’s going to blow your tastebuds off and leave them begging for more.We’re as excited as you about the big reveal!


Here’s Tempest Doug filling the first Cider Saison Cask. And some sexy shots of their big, shiny new tanks.

tempest combo

Other things we’re particularly looking forward to at IMBC are Squawk with IMBC on an intriguing Fig Stout, getting on down with the immense eats on offer including Karkli’s newest bar snack flavour, and all things Magic Beard.

We’re definitely going to need a lie-down after this one. See you there!

Indyman thistly* We don’t know either but it’s going to be epic!



Thistly introduces US craft cider in cans to the UK

Building on the recent success of our crowd-sourced apple appeal, we’re now working with a US producer to bring organic JK’s Scrumpy Cider in cans to the UK!  The cider will hit shelves this month and is a continuation of a long-standing collaboration between the two cider companies. Alongside a shared passion and dedication to cider making, an important aspect of the collaboration is the concept of farmers helping farmers.

“Although both farms are separated by over 3500 miles, it was clear from the start that the companies shared the same values and goals,” said head cidermaker at Thistly Cross, Peter Stuart.  “Both are innovative companies, making great tasting ciders from natural ingredients and with strong links to their respective local communities.  Working together was a logical step to take!”

JK ciders_TCCThroughout the transatlantic friendship, Thistly Cross Cider has achieved distribution in more than 40 US states, in keg and bottle formats, and has employed two US Cider Ambassadors to manage overseas development. Five of Thistly Cross’s seven award-winning ciders have earned pride of place in America’s first dedicated ciderhouse, Bushwacker Cider, and the US is Thistly’s top international market, with sales in the country doubling in the past year.

US Cider Ambassador, Luke Fenton, added: “We have discovered that the best way to make cider is by making friends and we now have many good friends stateside, who love who we are and what we do.  By bringing J.K.’s Scrumpy to the UK, we hope to return the favour and introduce UK craft drinkers to the American take on cider.”

Cider is the fastest growing drinks sector in the USA and hard cider has been regarded as the second most popular craft genre after IPA.

J.K.’s Scrumpy is run by Jim Koan and is based at family-owned Almar Orchard in Michigan, operated by the Koans for more than 150 years.   Cider production has protected the farm and orchards from a food industry which has become increasingly difficult for small producers.  Jim, working with Bruce Wright of Orchard Gate Scrumpy, has challenged this environment, propelling J.K.’s Scrumpy into the top ten bestselling ciders in the US.

Thistly Cross will be distributing J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider and Northern Neighbour varieties, alongside its own range of award-winning craft cider.  The US cider will be sold in cans, which are increasingly being used by craft breweries in the UK, capturing and maintaining more flavour than bottled counterparts.

J.K.’s Scrumpy is an apple cider, produced since 1860.  All of the apples are organic and the cider is sweet and rich, with a fresh flavour.  The cider is slow-fermented for between six and eighteen months using natural yeast, before being canned on the farm.

Northern Neighbour is made from a mixture of home-grown apples and Saskatoon berries.  The berries, whilst genetically similar to apples, are sweet with a tart nose.  They are grown in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and are very popular among locals.  The cider has a burgundy hue with a flavour perfectly reflecting the fresh mix of apples and berries within.

TCC_bottles s15

Scrumpy Skeddadle Run

jkSunday 4th of October sees our friends JK’s Scrumpy at the Alma Orchards in Michigan play host to the now infamous Scrumpy Skeddadle Run. Thistly Colin will be heading along too to partake in all the fun!

Part of the Thirsty 3 running series, there’s 5k and 10k runs with the promise of a cider tasting after all that hard work. There’s also a hog roast, immense pancake breakfast and the chance to check out the farm and orchards. You can find out more at this link:

We’re proud to be continuing our transatlantic relationship with the great folks at JK’s – 2 farms working together making different ciders on different continents but sharing the same dedication and passion to cider-making.

And as October finally signals the arrival of Autumn, we can reveal we’ll have some very exciting news soon about their US cider. Keep your eyes peeled!

autumn leaves


Scottish Apples for Scottish Cider

orchard applesThistly Cross needs you! 

As a real-fruit cider producer, the apple season is the most important time of year at Thistly Cross.  We’ve already started accepting the first intake of late Summer/early Autumn fruit and as a proudly Scottish brand, we’re inviting you to donate your spare apples. In return for cider or apple-juice of course!

One of the things that makes Thistly Cross Cider so unique is our blend of Scottish heritage apples all hand-pressed on our farm in East Lothian. Our friends at Tweed Valley Fruit Trees have lots of great info on their website about the history of apple varieties, and even choosing the right apple tree.

We’re lucky enough to know friendly apple-growers across Scotland in lots of interesting places including all kinds of estates, walled gardens, and orchards. But, Thistly can’t make all the cider it wants to without your help, so every year we accept fruit donations from all over Scotland, from a single bucket-full to a tonne delivery.  And to say ‘thank-you’ we swap your fruit for our very own cider or apple juice.  Roughly speaking, we operate a ‘bucket for a bottle’ system; 1 bucket of apples (around 7kg) = 1 bottle of cider. Think your apples might fit the bill, read on:

apples sackWhich apple varieties do we accept?: Most apple varieties are welcome (apart from crab apples – sorry!).  Part of the reason our cider has such an authentic flavour is its unique blend of apple varieties. And don’t forget that we also accept pears, providing these fit the same criteria as our apples. Unsure whether your fruit is suitable or have other questions about fruit donation? Drop our Head Cidermaker, Peter an email to:

How do I know if my apples are ripe?: Very simply, healthy apples should drop to the ground of their own accord when ripe.  However, the wind in Scotland makes this a little tricky to gauge, as big gusts can encourage apples down before they’re ready.  Here’s a great online guide about how to tell whether your apples are ripe.

What condition of apples do you accept?: Thistly needs good ingredients to make good cider – that means clean, sound, rot-free apples.  It’s important there’s no rot present – it really is true that 1 rotten apple can ruin a whole barrel. The fruit is weighed and sorted on arrival, but it saves us time if you take out any bad or heavily bruised apples beforehand.

apples massHow should I store my apples?: Apples should be stored in a breathable container – paper bags, tattie sacks and crates all work perfectly for this. Please don’t store your apples in plastic bags as this causes them to sweat and rot.

When should I bring them?: The short answer is, as soon as possible after harvesting. The longer answer depends very much on the variety and condition of the apple. If you pick directly from the tree it’s best to get them to us within 1 or 2 weeks of harvesting. The most important thing, though, is that they meet all of the criteria above.

Apples are milled at Thistly HQ on Wednesdays then pressed Thursdays/Fridays.  As we’re busy during the harvest, we can’t always get to your donations the same week you drop them off so it’s important they’re fit to be stored for a few days. We don’t want to waste a single apple!

apple shed kegBrilliant! My apples fit the criteria, what next?: For smaller amounts, please drop them off to The Store at Belhaven Fruit Farm (see address below) and enjoy a cup of tea and a look around the farm shop whilst you’re there.  Open 10am- 4pm, 7 days a week.

Belhaven Fruit Farm, Thistly Cross Roundabout, Dunbar, East Lothian, EH42 1RG

For larger fruit donations, call us: 07960962510 / 01368863246 or email Head Cidermaker Peter on: to arrange.  We may be able to collect donations weighing over a tonne, but you’ll need to contact and arrange in advance.

What if I’m too far North?: Handily we now have a Highlands drop-off point based at Gordon Castle.  Opening hours and visitor information can be viewed here. The Gordon Castle Estate has its own cider, in collaboration with Thistly Cross, which will be swapped for any fruit donated at the castle. Address: Gordon Castle, Gordon Lennox Estate Company, Fochabers, Moray, IV32 7PQ

Happy apple-picking!

Festival Competition Weekender

We’re going a bit competition crazy this weekend! Thistly Cross Cider is headed to two great events: Midstock Festival at Dalkeith Country Park and Ooshka Festival in Glasgow, and we have tickets available for both! Read on for all the details.


Alongside lots of other great food and drink suppliers, Thistly’s Real Strawberry, Elderflower and Original ciders will be on the Midstock Festival bar to refresh partygoers whilst an eclectic range of musical talent is on stage. Acts include Fish, The Fratellis, Fatherson and The Hoosiers. What makes it even better is that you can go for FREE!

WIN tickets for Midstock Festival – we have 2 pairs of tickets, and 2 family tickets (4 prizes in all) to GIVEAWAY in conjunction with Midstock Festival. Sound good? All you have to do is head over to our Facebook page and TAG & SHARE to be in with a chance of winning. The competition deadline is close of play 10th Sept 2015, and you’ll have to make sure you’ve got the 12th Sept free to attend. Best of luck!

ooshkaOr fancy winning a pair of tickets to Ooshka Festival for their 11am-1pm session this Sat in Glasgow? Act quick, head over to our Facebook or Twitter pages and enter licketty-spit! **Deadline: 4pm on 11/9/15**

Based on the 12th Sept on Glasgow’s Tall Ship, the festival ties in to Scotland’s rich history in the trading and transport of Whisky all over the world. Andy Gemmell, Director of The Drink Cabinet added, “Having travelled the world as a Whisky Ambassador, I realised the passion people have for Scotland. We want to celebrate this by showcasing the amazing drinks brands we produce….. we want to educate people through an innovative format in an iconic location.”

part-varieties new label a15

With big Frank Murphy from Pot Still in Glasgow heading up the educational portion, the day of sampling, experiential master-classes and live music is set to be an unmissable event in Glasgow’s summer calendar. Ooshka Festival aims to showcase the journey, production and stories of the beers and spirits of Scotland through tastings, master-classes and interactive workshops. It’s going to be a fantastic event showcasing newer brands alongside those more established including Thistly who’ll be there with all our core varieties and possibly a few specials….! Tickets are available online here. Strictly over 18s only.

Craft Beer Rising & more…

It’s another busy weekend at Thistly with cider heading out all over the place both inside and outside the UK. Keep up to date on our social media feeds to follow the fun (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram):

cbr work in progressThe Big Daddy of this weekend, Craft Beer Rising is nearly ready to roll at our friends, Drygate Brewery in Glasgow with the Thistly rainbow bar a work in progress. Thistly Colin has promised us it will be finished in time! You’ll need to come along to see its full beauty between 4th-6th September when it will be manned by Colin, Cammy and Stevie, with Peter popping by on the Friday. All the Thistly varieties will be there with our Barrel-Aged and Slyrs Whisky Cask to tempt your tastebuds. There’ll be around 40+ breweries for your tasting and sampling pleasures alongside all kinds of great street food, and fab music.

The all-important Trade day is on the Friday (register here)  – looking forward to meeting old friends and new alike!

**Updated to show just a smidgeon of the beauteous Thistly corner stand!**


craft beer rising readyCider suggestion: Thistly Cross Jaggy Thistle – our dry CAMRA-endorsed vintage farmhouse scrumpy – only available on draught

Berwick Beer Fest IstvanBerwick Food & Drink Festival on 4th (beer day!) – 6th Sept.

We’re curating the cider bar with all our varieties including the much-anticipated Barrel-Aged and Slyrs Cask. Better get there quick though as we have only limited stocks!

Great music and events, and lots of Thistly friends attending including Tempest Brewery, with the Berwick slow food group and Peelham Farm.

2015_New Pump Clip_Slyrs_outlinesCider suggestion: Thistly Cross Slyrs Cask – a Bavarian/Scottish collaboration – smooth and subtle with hints of the unique cask.

Loch Lomond Food & Drink Festival on 5th and 6th September.

2015 sees the 10th year of this fest, and Thistly will be on the beach refreshing all those parts that only real fruit ciders can reach! Look out for Mikey, Suze and Colin on the stand.

Cider suggestion: Thistly Cross Real Strawberry – outstandingly drinkable with all the natural flavours of soft fruit; fresh strawberries with a little apple zing.

Russelsheim Mainland Games in Germany on 5th and 6th September.

whisky_group_gold_a15 wsiteThistly Sinea will be working the bar with her fabulous German skills alongside a selection of good folks from the Scottish Whisky industry and Mackies crisps. Come along and try some Thistly. In German. Zum Wohl!

Cider suggestion: Thistly Cross Whisky Cask – dry, subtle notes with mellow hints of cask to the apple.

Summer Cider Weekend

beachy TCCAs well as seriously cidery North Hop things, Thistly Cross will also be slaking cider thirsts this weekend at:

Foodies Festival Harrogate at Ripley Castle on 21st, 22nd & 23rd August. Following on from the Great Yorkshire Beer Festival last weekend, Thistly is hitting Yorkshire again at Harrogate Foodies (with the added draw of a quickie pint at the Harrogate Tap if we’re lucky!). Look out for Suze and Jen on the stand, dispensing Thistly a-plenty as you peruse the foodie and drink delights on offer – we’re fancying the chilli eating contest, oyster shucking and a bit of a vintage tea tent experience (come on, who doesn’t like a good scone?).

Cider suggestion: Thistly Cross Real Elderflower – with a zesty, floral hit of real elderflowers combined with refreshing apples.

Doune The Rabbit Hole,  an intimate, independent music & arts festival located amidst the glorious ancient oak trees of the Cardoss Estate near (Scotland’s only) Lake Monteith in Stirlingshire – great house, great trees, all round fantastic location! Running from 21st-23rd August, we’ll have a wide selection of ciders on tap including a couple of fruit and traditional varieties, our new Barrel-aged variety (not even available in bottles!), and the ever-popular festival fave Jaggy Thistle. We’re hoping to catch a bit of Fatherson and some other great bands!

Cider suggestion: Thistly Cross Traditional – fruity and aromatic with a clean, apple finish.

sandy tcc circleAnd last but not least, Galloway Country Fair at Drumlanrig Castle, 22nd & 23rd Aug, 9am- 6pm. Offering up a celebration of rural life, there’s a whopping £1200 worth of prize money up for grabs if you fancy entering their clay pigeon shooting competition, although it’s the fact they have duck-herding that’s really exciting us! On the bar will be an exciting array of our farmhouse ciders alongside award-winning beers from Glasgow’s Jaw Brewery, and delicious Edinburgh Gin Cocktails. Make sure you say hello to Dave and Andy on the bar if you head along!

Cider suggestion: Thistly Cross Whisky Cask – dry, subtle notes with mellow hints of cask to the apple.

Have a good one, and may the sun shine!

Tasty North Hop Goodness

North Hop 1Inverness here we come – the Thistly cider wagon is on the way to North Hop with Thistly Sinea and Colin! Peter is choosing to lie low this year after remembering those memorable ‘few’ drinks he had last year with Craig at Cromarty…

It’s one of our favourite festivals so we’re heading up to Inverness with the full effect of cider varieties and a few specials – you’ll have to come along if you want to see everything but our barrel-aged range including the rather elusive Slyrs Cask, will be there alongwith our CAMRA-approved Jaggy Thistle 7.4%. So there are likely to be a few Jaggy Tops making an appearance (don’t blame us as they’re very moreish!). We’re doing it in style now thanks to The Scotsman food + drink we’ve been voted 1 of the 10 Tastiest Things You Must Try At North Hop!

10tasttyNorth Hop runs until 22nd August:

Friday Evening Session: 21st August 2015 – 6pm till 12am.sinea headshot
Saturday Daytime Session: 22nd August 2015 – 12pm till 6pm.
Saturday Evening Session: 22nd August 2015 – 7pm till 1am.

With ‘Hop Sessions’ throughout – these are short chat/tasting sessions which are free to attend for festival go’ers but are limited to 40 folk per session – make sure you book a place on the Thistly one at 1.15pm on Sat with Thistly Sinea. She’ll be introducing you to our Barrel-Aged range including some specials you can’t currently get in bottles – all matured in bourbon, rum and selected single malt casks. Blindfolds and prizes may be involved….

We’ve also decided that North Hop is the perfect launch-pad for our much-anticipated rebrand Thistly t-shirts. But be warned we’ve only got a limited first print run of these so they’ll be available to the first lucky few – expect these to go quick!

boy bandDelightfully modelled here by Scott, Cammy, Colin & Mikey – Thistly’s boy (that should probably be ‘man’) band.

We’re looking forward to celebrating the Highland way with the best of craft beer and cider, artisan gins, creative cocktails, Scottish food, homegrown music, and you. See you there, and hope you’ll share your Thistly North Hop pics with us on @ThistlyCross on Twitter, @thistlycrosscider on Facebook and we’re thistlycrosscider on Instagram.