THOUSANDS of people flocked to Pitchcroft to enjoy a record-breaking beer festival over the weekend.

The 12th Worcester Camra beer, cider and perry festival, which opened on Thursday, proved to be the biggest and most popular yet.

After a slow start the numbers picked up on Friday with 6,500 people through the doors of the marquee – a 20 per cent increase on last year.

The previous biggest Friday was back in 2009 when there were 5,800 people. The drinking began in earnest on Saturday with people queueing well before the tent opened.

Festival organiser Bill Ottaway said: “It’s better than expected.

“Friday was the best Friday we have ever had but figures were slightly down on Thursday.

“We are certainly in the top 10 Camra festivals and the biggest in the West Midlands.

“I would say we have got a winning formula.”

Mr Ottaway was confident that there were likely to have been 12,000 people through the doors over the course of the festival, smashing all previous records, including last year’s when there were 11,000 festival-goers.

It is estimated that 50,000 pints were consumed – 5,000 more than last year.

The festival had a more sombre edge this year because of the death of volunteer Janet Firth and Len Irving, a Worcester festival committee member and the cooling manager who died following a heart attack in June.

The festival was dedicated to Mr Irving and a special ale, Irving Beerlen, a four per cent extra pale ale, was brewed by Cannon Royall in his memory.

Festival-goers were spoilt for choice when it came to the beers with more than 200 different varieties and 100 different ciders and perries, some of which were brewed locally, including Arty Pharty brewed in Malvern and Amy’s Rose from Hanley Broadheath and Hereford Dark from Hereford. But there were beers, ciders and perries from every corner of the British isles, from Cornwall to northern Scotland.

The strongest beer (11 per cent) was the Russian Imperial Stout from Devizes, Wiltshire.

Entertainment came in the form of rock, pop, indie, soul, blues and jazz bands.

The festival has raised money to be split evenly between three charities – Midlands Air Ambulance, the British Heart Foundation and Acorns Children’s Hospice in Worcester.

Mr Ottaway said he still had to establish how much had been raised for the charities but, like last year, it would be in the thousands.

Mr Ottaway thanked everybody who had supported the festival, particularly the volunteers who gave up their own time to help manage the event.