THOUSANDS of revellers raised a glass of top-quality tipple at a three-day beer festival in STEAM.

The 31st annual Swindon and North Wiltshire CAMRA Beer Festival kicked off on Thursday with more than 100 beers and dozens of ciders and perries on offer for visitors to enjoy.

Barrels were lined up along one wall while breweries set up bars on the opposite wall, with merry crowds filling the air with laughter and conversation, all brought together by their love of good booze.

Ramsbury, St Austell, and local brewery Hop Kettle were showing off their wares to customers.

Hop Kettle owner Tom Gee said: “It’s fantastic, people are genuinely interested in what we sell, they ask questions and it’s nice to talk to such a brilliant bunch of friendly people.

“We were at the Red Lion in Cricklade and have now opened a bar called The Brewery Tap in Swindon a few months ago.

“Having the opportunity to get this information to potential customers has been invaluable for us and there’s been a lot of interest.

“We’ve spent a lot of time working behind the scenes so it’s nice to to be here and chat to people who are interested in beer.”

Tim Hunt of Wanborough and Franek Joachim from Swindon enjoyed a few porters and pale ales.

Franek, 46, said: “This is my first time at the festival, we’ve been to Swindon Speedway and we now have a Swindon world champion so we came here to celebrate.

“It’s really good here, I’m definitely coming back next year.”

Tim, 57, said: “I love what they’ve done with the railway works, I haven’t been in here for a while and there’s a lovely atmosphere.”

Vince Chilcott, Chairman of the Swindon and North Wiltshire Campaign for Real Ale, was pleased with the turnout.

He said: “It’s our 12th year at this venue and we normally get around 2,200 people through the doors.

“We try to get beers in that aren’t available in Swindon and it’s good to get the breweries recognised, more of them are opening now, though many pubs are closing because they’re finding it difficult to stay in business.”

Festival organisers raised money for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance by letting attendees return unused beer tokens they’d paid for, the value of which would then be converted into a donation to the charity.

In previous years, the festival has raised around £400 for their chosen charity.

Gill White has been a CAMRA member since she moved to Swindon in 1988 and has helped at previous festivals.

She said: “I was festival organiser for eight years and now I help as a steward, making sure the hall is safe and everyone’s happy.

“The biggest change I’ve seen over the years is the number of women drinking.

“In the early days, they were few and far between but today I’ve seen quite a lot.”