BY POPULAR demand, Swindon’s only church-held Beer Festival will return to Old Town next month with no fewer than 40 casks on offer to amateurs to taste.

The ale and cider extravaganza at Christ Church attracted 450 visitors when it launched last May – a coup for organisers who expected just 100 residents to attend.

The event, which will run from 1pm until 11pm on Saturday, May 17, is believed to be the only one of its kind ever staged at a church in the town, although other churches across the UK have held similar festivals.

As well as the regular tasting session and food bonanza, the church will hold an extra event, a free Beer and Hymns gathering at 5pm on Sunday 18, to end the hotly-anticipated weekend on a high note.

Tim Eyles, director of music and organist at Christ Church said organisers and volunteers expected no fewer than 600 revellers to come and enjoy a few pints next month.

“It was such a big success that we will be trying to sell more tickets,” he said. “We had never seen so many people in church. We are expecting 600 people. And there will be more ciders and beers this year.

“The festival is a good way to get together as a community and for people to get familiar with the church.

“The Beer and Hymns will be a good way to end it and for us to use up the rest of the beer.”

The festival was the brainchild of Gareth Hutchinson, a warden at Christ Church and ale connoisseur keen to share his interest.

The 29-year-old, of Old Town, previoulsy said: “I’ve been a member of Camra (Campaign for Real Ale) for quite a while and so I go along to their beer festivals – I would travel a long way for a good beer.

“They are really popular events and Christ Church is looking at different ways to bring the community in.

“Old Town does not really have a proper beer festival and it’s very much about local and organic produce up here so that’s what we are trying to do.

“I’m not aware of any other beer festival in a church in Swindon but I know there have been some in other places. It will be a unique experience because the church itself is historical and it will be a nice setting.”

Rev Simon Stevenette said: “It was a terrific event last year. There was an excellent atmosphere so this year we will have more of the same but it will be bigger.

“It’s really a way of doing events which are topical and that people in the town relate with and Christ Church is a good meeting place for that.”

Entry costs £6 and includes a souvenir beer mug and programme. Tickets are available from Magnum wine shop, in Wood Street, or from