Raise your glass to city cider festival

Peter Stuart is delighted to be part of the event. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Peter Stuart is delighted to be part of the event. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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AS summer approaches and the weather finally takes a turn for the
 better, there’s nothing more refreshing than a cold glass of cider.

And gone are the days when the tipple’s ingredients were restricted to apples – now you can practically consume your five-a-day in just one drink.

One Edinburgh pub is gearing up to showcase exactly what’s on offer at a festival dedicated to the once neglected beverage.

The Jolly Judge on the Lawnmarket will celebrate all things cider – and staff hope that they can convert their beer-drinking regulars.

Manager Rosie Thomson says: “Cider has definitely been making a comeback for a while. We are finding that it’s one of our top sellers.”

The Jolly Judge team will have at least nine ciders and perries available to thirsty customers – including the 
Dunbar-based Thistly Cross. Other varieties will include Gwatkin, Gwynt Y Ddraig, Lilleys, Perry’s, West Croft and Westons – and possibly a cider-based cocktail or two.

Thistly Cross cider-maker Peter Stuart says he’s delighted to be a part of the event, which is now in its fifth year.

“The Jolly Judge is a lovely little pub,” he said. “They do a lot of good stuff with cider.”

He says the growing popularity of the drink is “absolutely incredible”, adding: “We were just looking at some figures for the industry – and fruit cider sales have doubled in the last year.”

Peter says that up to 20 per cent of cider sales are now in fruit-based varieties.

His small firm – a team of eight based at Belhaven Fruit Farm near Dunbar – has been selling cider for five years, and now exports to 15 different countries.

Its American exports go to 45 different states.

“What we do here has got international appeal,” explains ­Peter. “It’s really the element of choice ­behind the bar, the evolution of fruit ciders has increased the number of ciders available.”

He says the rise in fruit cider complements the growing popularity of craft beer.

And although the UK market is very competitive, Peter hopes that the East Lothian brand has a unique selling point.

“There are hundreds of cider makers but they are all based in the south of England,” he explains. “When cider comes from very big companies, the choice and quality of cider suffers. We are not only one of the first craft cider makers in the UK, we are also Scotland’s first cider maker. Last year we doubled our sales, which is pretty exceptional.”

The Jolly Judge, just off the Lawnmarket at James Court, prides itself on selling real draught cider all year round. So during next month’s event, the bar will be well-stocked with both traditional dry or “farmhouse” ciders and fruit ciders.

Among the options are Herefordshire-based ­Weston’s and the award-winning Welsh cider Gwynt Y Ddraig. Cider cocktails may also be on the menu – but staff are still experimenting with ingredients. Bar manager Rosie says she hopes the festival, from May 14 to May 20, will be the best yet.

She explains: “We also have a festival over winter, where we have things like mulled cider. I don’t think we’ll be having mulled cider this time, but we aim to have up to nine draught ciders. We are working on getting different bottles too. The focus is on the cider. It’s a week-long event, and it will be a be bit busier at the weekend.”

The Jolly Judge team is hoping that the weather is good for the duration of the event, to help pull in customers.

Rosie adds: “We are hoping to get hundreds of people to come along and try the ciders over the week. Quite a few of our regulars will turn their tastebuds to cider as well.”

Jolly Judge assistant manager Adam Neil says: “For too many years real cider has been a neglected product in ­Scotland. We believe that this will be a unique event that will offer a chance for the Edinburgh public and visitors to ­experience an expertly selected and diverse range of ciders not normally available in the area.”

For more information, visit the pub’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jollyjudge.