2013 Thistly Cross Cider Resolutions

2012, we salute you!

We’ve had an incredible year – from launching our Whisky Cask Cider in America, to winning East Lothian’s ‘Most Innovative Product’, taking our ciders to hundreds of tastings around the world and generally just getting awesome feedback and support from you – the guardians of Thistly!

We’ve got a feeling 2013 is going to be our year…so in respect of this, the Thistly Cross team are laying down the law cider-style and making some New Year’s resolutions to keep us on the straight and narrow. Just don’t quote us on these!

Here’s what the team had to say for themselves:
Ian

Ian: Cider Baron: “My New Year’s resolution is simple – to make sure Peter doesn’t blow up the cider shed.”

julia

Julia: International Sales: “We think the world needs more Thistly! Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or email, we’re asked on a daily basis to make our cider more readily available. 2013 is the year we want to double our exports worldwide…watch this space!”

 mhairi 2                         

Mhairi: Digital & Social Media: “We’re planning to relaunch the Thistly Cross website as well as amping up activity online. There’s going to be no better place to find out about the wonderfully weird world of Thistly…other than in your glass that is!”

wee pete

Pete: Assistant Cider Maker: “This year’s about creating ciders that have never been created before, using ingredients – particularly those native to Scotland – that have been long forgotten about. Even I can’t remember what they’re called!”

Peter

Peter: Cider Maker: “Like every year, I want to push modern cider making to its limits…even it means blowing up the cider shed in the process.”

sarah

Sarah: Graphic Designer: “To continue making Thistly Cross Cider look as good as it tastes.”

scott

Scott: Drayman: “I love Thistly Cross, it’s why I’m here. I want to make 2013 the year I only drink Thistly Cross – I’ll even pour it over my cereal if I have to!”

It’s a Mulled Cider World Takeover!

It’s winter and all of a sudden that gently chilled, refreshing glass of cider is proving a lot less appealing and definitely not the sort of elixir to warm the bones.

No problem, we’ve got it sorted – mulled cider!

We’ve been banging the drum for mulled cider for little over a month now and have been overwhelmed at the response we’ve received.

You’ve tweeted us, emailed us and Facebooked us to tell us about your experiences in the world of mulled cider, including the locations where you’ve discovered some of the most mind-blowing blends imaginable.

We’ve had repeated tip-offs that the Roseleaf in Edinburgh has been hitting out with some awesome cider concoctions so we headed along to check it out in person where we met the owner – Lyn Kane – and also that day’s mulled special: a seasonal blend of Original Thistly with cinnamon, fresh orange slices and cloves, gently heated in a cider kettle.

“We stock Thistly Cross because it’s a local Scottish cider that tastes amazing. We started mulling Thistly as soon as the cooler months arrived; one must keep the chill off by warming ones cockles with a mug of mulled goodness!

“So far we’ve been experimenting with lots of different blends including spiced pear, strawberry & vanilla, even ginger & rum (yes, rum for an extra kick!)

“All of our Thistly mulled blends have received great feedback…it’s been embraced as a welcome alternative to mulled wine that gives less of a sore head in the morning.

“Over the next few weeks we’re going to roll out some food matchings with the mulled cider. Slow cooked pork belly sounds like a good pairing to us!”

Missing your favourite summer ciders? No problem! Just heat it up and while you’re at it why not stick in your own crazy combination of spices and fruit.

What’s more, you could be in with a chance of getting your hands on one of twelve Thistly Cross t-shirts to celebrate the arrival of the holiday season. Upload your snaps to our Facebook page, tweet us with the #thistlycrossmass hashtag or stick your snaps on Instagram for us to find.

Goings On In The Cider Shed

With the chill of winter in the air, some cidermakers may consider it a good time to retire the apple press and hang up their aprons in anticipation of warmer weather.

At Thistly Cross, we can but dream of putting our feet up.

Instead, the past few weeks have been some of our busiest with the cider shed a hive of activity, often into the early hours of the morning.

So what have we been up to? The short answer is lots!

Mulled Hot Cider

With Edinburgh’s Christmas market about to get into full festive swing, we’ve been preparing a ton of our traditional cider for mulling up and down Princes Street – Edinburgh’s famous shopping promenade and the epicentre of the Scottish capital’s holiday hijinks.

And it’s not just mulled cider that’s proving popular, our Whisky Cask cider has been a massive hit in America, so much so, we’ve dispatched a second consignment of our oak-aged nectar.

With a few of our ex-Glenglassaugh Distillery casks now empty, we also took the opportunity to re-fill them with more of our blend to create whisky cask cider in waiting.

Despite the apple season drawing to a close, our apple press has also been hard at work; and not just with apples but also pears from orchards that are local to the cider shed.

And it’s not just apples and pears we’ve been pressing as we continue experiments with the last of this summer’s strawberries to create a completely non-alcoholic, strawberry-packed cider (AKA 0.0% ABV) as you never can tell what will set next year alight!

Strawberry Punnets

And for those seeking more than just refreshment and flavour from their cider, we’ve also been trialling an alcoholic blend using wild blossom honey from award-winning, local beekeepers, Hood’s.

Still not got your fill of Thistly? Remember to check out Thistly on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as well as tagging your Thistly photos with #thistlycross to have them showcased on our website.

Hello Winter And Hello Mulled Cider

During the chillier months, one of our favourite activities is waiting for the bed to warm up.

There’s nothing finer than cracking the ice on the duvet and slipping between the sheets…that’s the benefits of these tumbled down, Scottish farmhouses.

And for those who are enlightened to the joys of central heating but still looking for a warming pick-me-up, there’s mulled Thistly!

Put your own seasonal spin on things to make Thistly Cross your own

Equipped with a soup pan or your own Thistly Cross Cider kettle if you’re a business (provided by us!) it’s now possible to create your very own aromatic mulled cider blends; perfect for celebrating dark evenings and open fires.

Simply add a few handfuls of fresh spice – from cinnamon to cardamom, crystallised ginger to cloves – to a gently warmed kettle of Thistly and you can conjure your very own autumnal creations that are completely unique to you.

So whether you’re playing with boozy Whisky Cask, full bodied Original, fiery Ginger, non-alcoholic Elderflower or even straight apple juice, now’s the time to get blending.

‘Tis the season to get blending

If you’re a café, pub or restaurant and fancy giving mulled cider a bash, then you should get your mitts on a Thistly Cross Cider kettle! Our cider kettles are in limited supply so please get in touch today to ensure your cockles are warmed over winter.

In the meantime, here’s one of our favourite mulled cider blends to get you started:

Ingredients

  • 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 clementine, sliced into wedges, spiked with 8 cloves
  • 1 lemon, sliced into wedges, spiked with 8 cloves
  • 100ml/4fl oz whiskey
  • 100ml/4fl oz orange liqueur
  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 litre/1 pint 15¼fl oz Thistly Cross ginger cider
  • 4 cinnamon stick
  • freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish

Preparation method

  1. Heat all of the mulled cider ingredients over a low heat in your cider kettle.
  2. Pour the mulled cider into a glass or mug.
  3. Finish with a little freshly grated nutmeg.

Hip Hooray – Whisky Cask Cider Makes it to the USA!

It’s been a trying time navigating the nuts and bolts of the US import system but we’ve done it – Thistly Cross’ whisky cask cider has made it stateside.

First off, massive thanks to our collaborator and Scots-born cidermaker friend across the water, Bruce Wright, who with the Koan Family from Almar Orchards, Flushing Meadows, Michigan, make JK Scrumpy and are guardians of Thistly Cross in the US of A. Bruce has been instrumental in bringing whisky cask cider to the states as well as joining up smaller producers to beat ‘the big boys’ so raise a glass in his honour!

Now after traveling the Atlantic for two and a half weeks by boat and spending four days in customs, whisky cask cider is finally ready to make itself at home in your glass and become friends with your palette.

Matured for six months in oak casks from Glenglassaugh Distillery in Portsoy, Aberdeenshire, our whisky cider makes for the perfect winter warmer, wherever you are in the world.

Infact, 2012 has been a great year for whisky cask cider.

First scooping ‘Best Specialty Cider’ at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Festival in Michigan and then being voted ‘4th best cider in the world’ by Paste Magazine, we truly thought it couldn’t get any better.

That was until we were crowned ‘Most Innovative New Product’ by our home county at the annual East Lothian Food and Drinks Awards.

Whisky cask will initially be available in 34 states via distributors such as Poppin Wine in Washington DC, Speciality Imports in Alaska, Geyser Beverage Co and Mussetter Distributing, both in California.

You’ll also be able to get your mitts on Thistly Cross in outlets such as Hope General Stores in Maine, Bushwacker Cider in Portland and Whole Foods across the USA.

As ever, we need your help when it comes to cider sleuthing – helping us and other Thistly fans to find out when you can purchase our ciders.

You can let us know via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – simply snap a picture of yourself and your bottle of whisky cask cider (or any of our ciders for that matter), remembering to use the hashtag ‘#thistlycrosscider’ so we can repost!

In the meantime, here’s a video from Bruce and the lovely folks at Bushwacker cider sending us a video message from across the pond.

Message from Bruce and Bushwacker

The Cider A – Z: A is for Apple

Welcome to the A- Z of cider.

In this new feature we attempt to untangle and defangle the story of cider. So roll up, roll up as we get started with the humble letter ‘A’ which, luckily for us, indulges our passion for something which we wouldn’t be here without – apples.

Where did apples come from?

Space. OK, that’s a lie. The answer is, as far as historical records suggest, 12th century Europe. The funky monks brought apples to the UK shortly after this time – they promoted their robustness in the face of harsh weather conditions as well as the use of apples in drinks making and as a tasty food stuff too.

What’s a weird apple fact?

You have Genghis Khan to thank for your Granny Smith. Fact.

Apples are originally from Tibet / China / that rough geographic area but were brought into Europe by the horse tribes of Genghis Khan – horses ate the apples, the seeds fermented in the horses’ gut (which is required for germination) and so the apple journeyed across the silk trail into Europe.

How many different types of apples are there?

It’s thought there are around 7,500 different varieties of apples across the globe. Some of the apples we use give a glimmer of their individual history – Stirling Castle, Hawthornden and White Melrose as well as key people like James Grieve and Edinburgh Gardener.


What’s an apple made of?

What different varieties of apples have in common is their make-up – an apple is 90% water (take that fact to your next pub quiz!) The rest of the apple is a whirl of naturally occurring organic acids, tannins, nitrogenous compounds, minerals, salts and sugars. And that’s just on the inside. On the skin of an apple you should be able to find wild yeasts which – along with everything else – are integral to the cider making process.

What apples are best for cider?

Of course, not all apples taste the same so if you fancy having a stab at your own cider making session a good rule of thumb is a nice mix between cooking apples, dessert apples and juicing apples. Fruit should be in good condition (don’t rely purely on windfall) and you’ll know when an apple is ready to pick as you should be able to softly twist it off the stem. Remove any rot, clean the fruit – but not too much to ensure the presence of wild yeast – and add a quantity of sugar syrup to compensate for bad summer weather.

Help! Help! I’m overrun with apples!

Fear not, if your garden is over flowing with apples, Thistly Cross will gladly rehome them in our cidershed. Keep an eye on our Facebook page or our Twitter for more information on Thistly Cross Apple Amnesty.

Thistly Cross Cider Meets Audio Soup

A weekend of cider, summery vibes and facepaint…

What do you get if you cross a field in East Lothian with one thousand and something fancy dress wearing, face paint adorned festival-goers basking in the summer sun with enough Thistly Cross Cider to quench a small, thirsty army? The answer – Audio Soup.

We love small festivals, especially boutique festivals that just so happen to pop up on our doorstep which is why we jumped at the chance to cart along litres of delicious cider, as well as donating 80,000 litres of drinking water, to make sure the weekend and its family of party-hungry revellers never ran dry.

A best kept secret but set to become a regular feature on Scotland’s festival circuit, Audio Soup combines picturesque scenery, summery good time vibes and lashings of live music that transcend genre and – dare we say it – even sanity.

Back for their second year, the lovely people at Audio Soup succeeded in turning a bog standard field just outside Garvald into a mesmerising playground for the senses complete with wooden Stonehenge, Indian market stalls, thumping wubhut and bouncing main stage.

And with the Audio Soup campsite springing up early on Friday afternoon, this three day festival featured round the clock shenanigans, cider tasting, soup slurping and the odd bit of mud, just for old times’ sake!

So, with a cup of red, ginger or elderflower Thistly in hand, the rest of the weekend was spent peppered with appearances from a sterling line-up of bands – Dub Mafia, Bombskare and Mr Woodnote to name but a few as well as plenty of home grown talent.

Big love to the Audio Soup crew for having us along, we’re already prepping the apples for next year.

In the meantime, the crazy festival train doesn’t stop there. We’re in the process of gearing up for this weekend’s antics in the big blue shed at Belhaven Fruit Farm – a night of 3 awesome cover bands: The BlackBeez, Hurricane Jack and The Jammy Devils.

Covers include Kasbian, White Stripes, Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, T-Rex, Creedance Clearwater Revival and many more.

Tickets are just £10 which includes a FREE pint of Thistly or double spirit before 9pm.

Doors from 7.30pm, bar until 1 – find out more here

Drop by, say hi and enjoy a cider with us as we celebrate one of the last nights of summer.

But for now, peace, love and cider x

Photo credits – Steven Ingle @ Iris Photography

Local Harvest

So all this August sunshine is great for the fruit that has survived the late spring frost, east coast wind and general rubbish summer…. At Thistly Cross, we have run a scheme over the last couple of years to give Landowners, smallholders and householders an incentive to maintain existing trees, plant new orchards and gather as much of the Scottish Harvest as possible. The fruit must come to us in good condition, clean, ripe without bruising or mould. It’s a tricky thing to organise and best done with friends and family. I think that’s why Community groups are keen to take up the offer – sourcing apples from a locality on behalf of some good cause, and using a school or hall as the collection point.

We are very happy to receive apples at the cidershed in box, trug, fishbox or tatties box ( by previous appointment). Poly bags tend to sweat the apples and bring them on a bit too much…and certainly we cannot trade in apples that are not up to scratch, as, at the end of the day, we are in the business of making good quality cider. Unfortunately we cannot pick the fruit ourselves as during autumn, we are busy with our own apples, pressing and juicing, amongst all the other jobs at Thistly HQ. So, for general guidance and enquiries, please feel free to contact me at peter@thistlycrosscider.co.uk, as despite our best efforts there are still apples left on the ground each year…

Here’s looking forward to a few more sunny weeks of late summer cider related pursuits!

 

Thistly Cross Cider presents ‘THISTLY FEST 2012′

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT

 For one weekend this summer, Scotland’s only dedicated cider-makers will give their time and attention to some of Scotland’s most dedicated musicians, and they think you should too.

A mainstay at many of Scotland’s independent music festivals, the bond between Thistly Cross and good music is already a strong one, and now the people behind the cider are inviting you along to the shed where it all began to explore a little further.

LINE UP

MEURSAULT / Woodenbox /FOUND

Remember Remember / WITHERED HAND

TANGO IN THE ATTIC / Bwani Junction

Capitals/ FATHERSON / Kitty The Lion

 FRIGHTENED RABBIT (Scott Hutchison Solo Set)

Plus Other Guests

 

EXTRAS

TICKETS

Arena will open at 11am (TBC) Tickets will be available from thistlyfest.eventbrite.co.uk and will be priced at £28. 

TRAVEL

There will be a festival bus service running from central Edinburgh to the Dunbar site priced at £10 return, however numbers will be limited therefore seats must be booked in advance. This can again be done at thistlyfest.eventbrite.co.uk

Site Address: Belhaven Fruit Farm, South Belton, Dunbar, EH42 1RG

LOCAL BAND? – GET INVOLVED!

Organisers will also be running a competition for local musicians to come along and showcase their talents with four acoustic slots available on the big stage.

To be in with a chance of playing potential acts must upload what they think is their best track, along with name, contact and a little about themselves, to the drop box on the Thistly Fest Soundcloud by June 29th. From this the organisers will select their four favorites acts to play on the day and place a link to them on the official Facebook page where upon the running order will be decided by the number of ‘likes’ each track can get in the run up to the festival. Musicians of any genre are welcome to enter the competition but remember on the day it has to be an acoustic performance.

The Web address for the competition drop box is http://www.soundcloud.com/thistly-fest 


CIDERMAKERS

Cidermakers have matured cider in wooden vessels for a wee while now. The natural properties of the wood, combined with an element of oxidation, allows the cider to breathe and aid the natural proclivity of the conditioning cider. There are many flavours imbued by this process and it depends on the cask stock and the intention of the Cidermaker. At best, after an extended period of time, the cider can develop a rounded, full bodied flavour, with a soft mouth feel. This is a good example of desirable malolactic fermentation, as encouraged by most Red wine producers. However, the time spent in the wood, also increases the potential for other, more questionable characteristics to develop as the cider can turn to vinegar, whiff of the dung heap or peanuts!..Traditionally rum barrels were the currency of the Empire, as they would be used as an economical form of ballast. This has encouraged the accidental notion that it is acceptable for rum, or any other spirit characteristic to predominate over the cidery qualities.

 We have some vintage Scottish Cider from 2010 maturing in wooden casks now – (This will soon be released as “Jaggy Thistle” and has been made to the CAMRA specifications of Real Cider, but more of that in a later blog ..) and are making progress with exporting the first of our 6.9% Cider matured in ex casks from Glenglassaugh Distillery, Portsoy. This should hit the shelves in the US sometime in the summer.

 At the end of the day, it is all down to luck and possibly… the skill of the Cidermaker ( ie frequent and regular tasting sessions!) and the quality and integrity of the cask stock. A little bit of background interference is no bad thing, whether the source is from the container, micro biological or something a wee bit more pronounce like a bucketful of fresh strawberries.

We, at Thistly Cross, have hopefully always had our eyes wide open to the full potential of such possibilities. The difference being now, perhaps, is that we have got one eye squarely focused on the proper legislation as well. Is that the sound of slapping wrists?