Craft Beer Rising

cbr tag

We’re busy this weekend at Craft Beer Rising down in London at the Truman Brewery, until Sunday with a fine selection of Thistly on handpull and draught including the very rare limited edition beast that is Rum Cask.


It seemed like it might just be a dream, but no, we are indeed inside a room ENTIRELY DEDICATED to cider, Lost in Cyder Space. Come visit: the bar is built, Trade Day is underway, and Peter has adopted the victorious bar-conqueror pose so we are officially GO. Love to see you down there!

cbr bar longshotcbr multi

Thistly Cross is expanding!

TCC_WBarns combinedWe’ve all expanded somewhat over the festive period but Thistly is doing it in 2016 style! We’re stoked to announce our new cidershed in the village of West Barns, about a mile down the road from Thistly’s original headquarters.

The new site allows us to increase our capacity sevenfold, and follows on from the company’s most successful year yet. The storage and production areas have expanded, and not only that, we’ve added three new chiller tanks to increase capacity.

TCC_WBarns tanks“I’m thrilled that Thistly is opening our new cidershed,” said Peter Stuart, Head Cidermaker. “We’ve had such a big demand for our cider this year and it’s fantastic to know we’re going to continue to be able to meet this.”

The new premises allow us to meet increasing demand for craft cider both in and outside the UK, whilst still maintaining the small batch nature of our production.

“We care very much about making a high quality product made from good ingredients,” Peter went on, “small batch cidermaking is at the core of Thistly’s philosophy.”

The move took place at the start of the year, with production now continuing at the new premises, where the buildings have a history dating back to the 1700s. East Lothian is home to some of the oldest farm steadings in the world and, back in 1798, the site was used to produce Scotch Whisky and, later, as a brewery and maltings. Now, Thistly Cross is slowly rebuilding West Barns steading, with plans to add a pressing room and tasting room, in addition to the fermentation and blending rooms already in operation.

“It’s fantastic to be able to add to the strong tradition of alcohol production in the heart of East Lothian, and our new location is steeped in heritage,” Peter said. “We can’t wait to contribute to the area’s rich history.” He continued, “when it comes to booze, Scotland is the best brand in the world and Thistly is heading that way with cider!”

comb TCC_WBarns outer

Happy 2016!

hny2015 has been an absolutely fantastic year at Thistly Cross!  It’s amazing to think of everything we’ve achieved and how far we’ve come.  We’ve had unforgettable experiences, met lots of brilliant people, and made scrumptious ciders.

Since this time a year ago, Team Thistly has nearly doubled in size.  Thanks in large part to the ScotGrad programme, we’ve gained lots of new faces to meet Thistly fans at events across the country – and the globe!

We’ve had some fun with Tempest Brewing, producing a few fruity collaborations (check out our latest in their blog) and we’ve attended some phenomenal events (Craft Beer Rising, North Hop, Indyman, to name but a few…) – not to mention our apple appeal, which left us swimming in fantastic apples!

Here are some of our favourite moments – and here’s to many more in 2016!

Mulling about Christmas

glass xmas 2With Christmas week now upon us and the weather starting to get a little chilly (although it’s a lot milder than usual), we thought it was the perfect time to talk about mulling.  At Thistly we know part of the fun of mulled cider is experimenting with flavours and making your own – chucking in whatever spices and fruits you fancy, or a dash of your favourite spirit. Many of our ciders make a great base for mulling, from the warmth of the Whisky Cask cider, through to the fresh spice of the Real Ginger cider. And we love the idea that there could be hundreds of Thistly Cross mulled ciders out there!

orig treeIf you’re inexperienced with mulling, don’t worry we’ll be gentle. We recommend starting with your choice of Thistly Cross and gently heating in a pan before adding spices.  At the mulled wine event in Covent Garden, Sinea and Cammy added oranges studded with cloves, and some cinnamon sticks with an added glug of Scotch Whisky for an extra kick.

mull spicesOther spices which work well include nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and star anise, whilst rum, brandy or even sloe gin can even be added to create a unique twist on a classic mull. And the addition of fruit juice gives a less potent mix, with juicier overtones – treat it like a punch, add some slices of fruit, and ladle into (heatproof) glasses or cups.

Thistly Cross reversed circle_20151217155019146 xmasIf you are mulling some Thistly Cross (or just drinking your favourite variety!) over the festive period, we’d love to see your results, so Instagram,  Facebook or Tweet us the evidence.

Which just leaves us to wish you a very Merry Christmas from all at Thistly Cross Cider! Thanks for your support and custom and we’ll see you in January with lots of exciting cidery developments planned for the New Year.

Winter at Thistly Cross

The apple season is drawing to a close and things are starting to feel very festive at Thistly HQ; the days are shorter, the air is crisper and the Christmas cards are piling up.  December is one of the busiest months for us, with cider being made, sold and delivered across the country in time for all the celebrations.

We kicked off the Christmas season in style down in London, where Sinea and Cammy launched Thistly’s Mulled Cider blend at the Covent Garden lights switch-on.  They also used some of our core varieties as a base for their own mulling experiments – all of which went down a storm!  Definitely cider-makers in training.


Closer to home, Thistly has a stand at the Edinburgh Christmas Scottish Market in St Andrew Square.  Our core range is available as well as our mulled cider and, as we’re sharing the stand with Tempest Brewing, you can also stock up on craft beer whilst you’re there.  Thistly’s mulled cider is behind all of the official bars for the event, as well as in pubs throughout the city, so you should be able to get your fix around the capital.

20151123_184313-01Across in Glasgow, our signature mulled cider is fuelling the bar in George Square, along with the ice skating rink.  Thistly and ice skating? As long as you skate responsibly, what’s not to love!  And a mug of warming mulled cider is the perfect way to defrost those fingertips after the Christmas shopping.

IMG-20151209-WA0004-01We’ve been spreading the Christmas cheer around the country too – we had a great time at Foodies Christmas Festival in Harrogate at the weekend, as well as Glamis Castle Christmas Market, where we met lots of new Thistly fans.

We’ll be continuing to mull up some Thistly throughout the run-up to Christmas and New Year, and we’ve got tastings planned in Scotmid stores, so keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages for all the info. And don’t forget that tonight is your last chance to order through our webshop for cider delivered to your door (mainland UK) for Christmas!

Twitter: Thistly Cross

Facebook: Thistly Cross Cider

Instagram: @ThistlyCrossCider

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