HUNDREDS of beer lovers’ prayers were answered this weekend as they attended the first ale festival inside Christ Church.

The iconic church held Old Town’s first real ale and cider festival in a bid to raise funds for the church renovation scheme and also bring the community together – something organisers can claim to have achieved, the event sold out weeks in advance.

It is thought to be the first event of its kind to be staged at a church in the town, although other churches across the UK have held similar ones.

The festival was the brainchild of church warden Gareth Hutchinson, who secured the support of Pewsey’s Three Castles Brewery to help stage it – even getting a brew called Christ Church IPA made especially for the occasion.

The 29-year-old said: “It was a bit of a gamble but it has paid off. “We only thought we would sell 50 or 100 tickets to break even, but we sold around 450 and the feedback has been really positive.

“We had 24 ales and six ciders and a real mix of Wiltshire breweries, and others from places like York and Wales.

“I think the venue held a novelty factor for people. I’ve seen loads of people taking pictures of themselves drinking in a church.

“The great thing is the money will go to the church restoration project and we also had a local charity stall for Ruby’s Fat Cow Fund.”

The Rev Simon Stevenette hailed the event a huge success.

He said: “It’s like going back in time to the old Whitsun days where they used to have beer in the churches for the Pentecost.

“People enjoyed themselves and I always want this church to act as a meeting place and it really has something about it.”

Campaign for Real Ale member Tony Groves, 75, of Chiseldon, said: “I saw it in the Adver and thought I would come down because I go to quite a few beer festivals. I like it, it’s very different.”

Lee Sargant, 38, also of Chiseldon, said there had been a healthy atmosphere around the venue throughout the whole day.

“There’s a really nice vibe and everybody was chatting to each other,” he said.

“I thought it would be weird drinking in a church but actually it feels perfectly natural. “I like my beer and I’ve been to a couple before. But the beer selection here is really good.”