“I played drums in Frightened Rabbit for twelve years and it was such a massive part of my life that when the band ended I knew my next venture would have to be something I was just as passionate about as music,” says Grant Hutchison. “It turns out that was cider”.
Hutchison, 36, along with his wife, Jaye Hutchison, 33, (opened) Aeble – a shop dedicated to this apple-based drink – at 17 Rodger Street in the East Neuk town of Anstruther on April 29.
It’s a change in career for Jaye too, as she’s previously worked in film and TV art departments, as well as looking after event planning for companies including Social Bite. This was an opportunity to work together, on a shared passion, not too far from their home of St Monans, where they live with their baby daughter, Sula.
“I have always wanted to run a creative space of some shape or form so we decided to join forces”, she says. “We were largely inspired after our honeymoon in Japan, by how small businesses thrive there and are very specialised in one thing”.
Although Jaye became a fan of this drink while living in Melbourne – “there’s a great outdoor drinking culture there”, she says – Grant was bitten by the bug while on the road.
“I’ve never really been a fan of beer and so my choice at the pub growing up was always cider,” he says. “Through touring with the band I discovered that there was so much more to it than the usual choices you get in the pub. I really fell in love with the drink and the culture around it. Every time we played in Bristol I would come home with a case of new ciders to try and my love for the drink grew from there”.
The bright orange frontage of their business, formerly a hairdresser, certainly doesn’t resemble any old off-license.
It looks very hip, thanks in part to their creative pals. The shop-fitting was done by Pittenweem-based carpenter, Benjamin Silk, the hand-painted signs by Home Slice and a permanent dried flower installation by Under the Pear Tree, as well as a specially commissioned piece of work by Glasgow- based artist Emer Tumilty.
“Grant and I wanted to create a community driven space, where locals to The East Neuk had craft cider on their doorstep, but also somewhere niche that would attract people from around the country”, says Jaye.
It’s bound to draw locals, but will also add to the East Neuk’s portfolio of excellent foodie businesses, beyond Bowhouse, The Harbour Cafe, Anstruther Fish Bar or Michelin-starred restaurant, The Cellar.
To start with, Aeble, named after the Danish word for apple, will be selling close to 100 different types of cider. These will include international brands, but also Scottish and UK ones. There’s sparkling ciders from New York maker, Eve’s Cidery, and, from the Highlands, bottles by the Caledonian Cider Company and Novar Cider.
“Popular options include Oliver’s – highly regarded as a cider-making genius”, says Grant. “More challenging ciders include Ross on Wye – single varieties can be a bit more complex as they have not been blended. However, it’s incredibly interesting to try a single apple cider to understand its flavour profile, much like you would know a grape wine. We will also be one of the only stockists of many imported ciders specifically from the US. There is a really exciting scene over there and some of the best cider makers in the world right now are based in America”.
As well as miscellaneous extras like nuts and olives, wine and greetings cards, there will be regular tastings in the shop, as well as a cider growler refilling service.
There’s also chocolate by young Glasgow-based bean to bar chocolate company, Bare Bones (which they suggest teamed with a glass of their perry).
“We will be offering up suggestions of pairing ideas depending on what our customers might be having for dinner that night or what they might order at the chippy”, says Grant, who makes this drink sound like a very grown-up option.
We’re sure he wouldn’t advocate it mixed with blackcurrant, and it shouldn’t prompt anyone to put on a West Country accent.
The difference between what Aeble sells and, say, more familiar brands like Strongbow or even the cheaper-than-cheap White Lightning, is massive.
“Cheap ciders are made to be cheap and sold at volume so there’s very little consideration for the fruit that’s used or what ingredients are added,” Grant says. “More artisanal ciders are made with specific apple varieties to give balance of flavour and are often matured for longer periods of time and are closer to wine than most ciders that are more widely available”.
Also, although wine is becoming trendier, as proved by Edinburgh businesses WineKraft and Spry, and craft beer has been massive for a while, cider has yet to have its moment, in Scotland anyway.
“It’s definitely ciders’ time to shine!”, says Grant. “Either that or we will have one lonely shop. Wine and beer are on the same level of appreciation across the world, and now cider deserves its place. It is made in a very similar way to wine, with such skill and time-consuming processes. It can be presented in many different ways, yet it’s often categorised in a similar way to beer. Often people have a teenage cider memory that taints their opinion of it now, however we firmly believe that no matter what you like to drink, there will be a cider for you”.