WANTAGE’S Beer and Cider Festival is returning for another year to celebrate the best of local booze.

The renamed 2019 festival – hosted at the Beacon on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 March – will this year recognise exceptional cider as well as beer.

More than 30 varieties will be on offer at the event, which will also feature big screen coverage of international rugby, evening entertainment and present a number of awards.

The Mayor of Wantage will be there to watch the presentation of this year’s White Horse Branch Campaign for Real Ale.

Other awards at the ceremony, from 6pm, will include Pub of the Year, Cider Pub of the Year, Country Pub of the Year and Club of the Year.

The festival is set to feature 28 ales, six ciders and two pear ciders, all selected by branch members, many from breweries local to the Vale and Oxfordshire.

India Pale Ales, Mild, Porter, spiced and sour beers with a range of strengths – from 3.5 per cent to more than 5 per cent – are promised.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to vote for beer and cider of the festival and purchase a souvenir pint glass sponsored by local pubs The Royal Oak, The Shoulder of Mutton and The Kings Arms.

Ian Winfield, the festival organiser and White Horse Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Chairman, explained: "This year’s festival features 28 ales, from across Oxfordshire, with a few from further afield which have not been seen in Wantage before.

"There is also an extended selection of cider."

He added that local musician Neil Dwerryhouse. 'the man with the stereohands', will entertain punters from 8pm on Saturday night.

Mr Winfield continued: "Pint glasses are returning this year and have been kindly sponsored by three award-winning pubs of Wantage.

"The White Horse brewery in Stanford in the Vale is supplying t-shirts for staff and two new ales for us all to sample."

Meanwhile, Wantage's new brewery, based at the Kings Arms, are set to produce their first brew especially for the festival.

General manager Stuart Fanson said: "We are going to have a brewery. Its in the process of being set up and Nick, our brewer, is going to brew a special beer with a modern twist.

"We are just looking forward to people trying it and trying the rest of our beers at the King's Arms."

On Friday afternoon, visitors will have the chance to talk to local brewers about their beers, before the awards ceremony.

On Saturday, the event coincides with the final round of the Six Nations, which sees England host Scotland, Ireland travel to Wales and Italy welcome France.

The festival is opens from 11am until 11pm on both days. Admission costs £2 on Saturday and before 5pm on Friday, and £3 after.

There is free entry to all CAMRA members on production of their membership card.

An up to date beer list will be published at whitehorsecamra.org.uk/wantage-beer-festival in due course.