Thistly’s 2018 APPLE APPEAL (*now closed*)


Apples to Thistly’s drop-off point, 7 days (10am-4pm, avoid lunchtime please):
Belhaven Smokehouse,
Thistly Cross Roundabout (just off the A1),
Dunbar, EH42 1ST

Scotland’s Original cider-maker Thistly Cross has announced its 2018 Apple Exchange, seeking to rediscover any overlooked, abandoned or neglected local Northern apple trees to put their fruit to good use. What’s more, they’ll swap those apple donations for apple cider in its BRAND NEW 330ml 5% cans ‘straight from the Cidershed’ (7kg of apples for a can), and larger amounts of apples can be exchanged for our 5 Litre cider-boxes.

And to celebrate Eyeball Brewing’s new premises at the Thistly Cross site, there will also be the chance for some lucky beer-lovers to swap their apples for a taste of Eyeball Lager, on a first come, first served basis!

One of the things that make Thistly Cross Cider so unique is its blend of Scottish heritage apples, hand-pressed at their Cidershed in the heart of East Lothian continuing a proud tradition of using apples grown across the country from a wide range of sources, including local schools, professional apple growers, estate and farm owners and the general public. In previous years, the ‘Bucket for a Bottle’ scheme has resulted in hundreds of tonnes of apples, and Thistly would love to top that with this year’s #apples4cider campaign.

And so you know what sort of fruit we’re looking for, we probed Peter Stuart, Head Cidermaker at Thistly Cross for some pearls of wisdom: “As we enter late August, we thought now would be the perfect time to pass on some guidance around the unique apple crop situation in the UK this year. Early excellent pollination has created an abundance of fruit. however, due to the lack of rain over the extreme summer, the harvest has, and will still suffer – there has simply not been a suitable amount of rain yet to equal the amount of fruit on the trees. In an effort to survive, trees have started to drop a proportion of their crop in order to survive the drought. You may observe:

  •  Fruit dropping early in an attempt to maintain the quality of the fruit left on the trees, as there may not be enough water in the trees to maintain the ‘hold’ of the apples to the branches. 
  •  Sunstroke – apples take on a ‘petrified’ look: brown, syrupy, look rotten on the tree. 
  •  Apples will be likely to be more acidic, despite the warm conditions – typically perfect for the growth and development of ‘sweetness’. The lack of water will limit the crop from achieving normal growth. 

Obviously, these conditions will be more pronounced down South, but the conditions can also be seen in the northern half of the UK.

In conclusion: ignore the early windfall – this is a sign of stress. Give the remaining apples on the trees further time to develop, as more rain is anticipated. And sit tight for as long as possible to make the most of the increasingly typical UK summer weather. If anything, take the opportunity to remove any damaged or sun-struck fruit from the trees to preserve the remainder. As always, the summer is an excellent time for pruning in advance of the harvest, when the trees can be adapted to manage the crop loading and preserve their health for the year ahead.”

Based in the heart of East Lothian, Thistly Cross was established in 2008 as a collaboration between farmer, Ian Rennie, and artist-turned-cidermaker, Peter Stuart, and has rapidly gained a growing reputation for making ciders that people love.
Apple donations are welcomed at Thistly’s drop-off point: Belhaven SmokeHouse, Thistly Cross Roundabout, Dunbar, EH42 1ST just off the A1. It also has a shop, with lots of fantastic Scottish produce. Open 7 days a week for apples 10am-4pm (please avoid lunchtime if possible).

Follow Thistly’s #apples4cider campaign across social media.

Here’s the science bit:

What condition of apples does Thistly accept? Thistly needs good ingredients to make good cider – that means clean, sound, rot-free apples. It really is true that one rotten apple can ruin the barrel. The fruit is weighed and sorted on arrival, but it saves time if bad or heavily bruised apples are taken out beforehand.

Which apple varieties are accepted? Thistly accepts most apple varieties (apart from crab apples, sorry!). Part of the reason Thistly has such an authentic flavour is its unique blend of apples. Thistly also accepts pears providing these fit the criteria.

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 knock apples down too early. Once a few ripe, healthy apples have fallen to the ground, this is an indication that the rest of the apples are nearly ready for harvest. A ripe apple should come off the branch with ease, when twisted lightly. Once ripened, apples become slightly softer and sweeter.

How 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:as soon as possible after harvesting. The longer answer: this depends very much on the variety and condition of the apple. If you pick your apples directly from the tree, it’s best to get them to Thistly within one week of harvesting. As we are very busy during the harvest, Thistly can’t always process your apples in the same week that you drop them off, so it’s important that they’re fit to be stored for a few days.

Brilliant – my apples fit the criteria, what next? Please drop your ripe, clean apples off at Belhaven SmokeHouse. It is open from 10am to 4pm, seven days a week.

Note – obviously over-18s only for the cider swap

For any enquiries about apples, call Thistly HQ on 01368 863246 or email us on