The first-ever Up Helly Aa cider is being produced by East Lothian firm Thistly Cross for the 2017 fire festival season.
South Belton’s Thistly Cross has teamed up with Shetland and Orkney wholesaler JW Gray to develop and distribute the special-edition cider, due to be formally launched at Lerwick’s Grand Hotel on Shetland on Monday and Tuesday, January 30 and 31.
The new 5.5% abv cider, suitable for vegetarians and vegans and also gluten-free, will then be on sale in cider boxes at pubs and shops throughout Shetland.
It is described as a pale golden, smooth, still cider, with an initially light apple taste developing into a slightly dry finish
Thistly Cross’s own Orcadian Viking, Luke Fenton, said the idea for the cider came via his friendship with Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa 2017 guizer jarl, Lyall Gair.
“Lyall’s been loving Thistly since the beginning, helping out at shows across the UK with his excellent keg-handling skills and spreading the word about Thistly Cross,” said a spokesperson for the company.
“ When Lyall told us he was guizer jarl, Thistly was keen to return the cider karma. As a small company making craft cider, we love good events with good folk, and what better way to honour a great friend of ours as he begins his year as guizer jarl.”
Iain Johnston, director of JW Gray and Co, said: “We were delighted to support Thistly Cross with this fantastic-tasting Scottish craft cider.
“At Gray’s, we strive to introduce new and exciting products into the Shetland and Orkney marketplace and have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve received from the trade. Locals and visitors alike will be able to enjoy this product at most venues during Up Helly Aa.”
Up Helly Aa cider tastings are scheduled to take place on Viking ships MV Hrossey and MV Hjaltland on Sunday, January 29, and Thursday, February 2, when Luke travels to Up Helly Aa to introduce Thistly’s latest offering.