IT seems beer drinkers can't get enough of real ale at the moment!

Such is the demand, that local micro breweries in the region are thriving at present.

The thirsty theme will continue next week when the Stourbridge and Halesowen branch of CAMRA stage their 17th beer festival at Stourbridge Town Hall.

Since its inception, the festival has gone from strength to strength and has now reached a point where officials could be looking for a larger venue.

Festival organiser Simon Hanson confirmed: "We have a crowd limit of 450 at Stourbridge Town Hall. There was a point last year where we surpassed that number for a 20-minute period which left large numbers of people having to queue outside in the rain as the Tesco development was still taking place.

"At least we won't have that problem this time, but we could seriously do with somewhere bigger.

"We did look at the Crystal Leisure Centre, but that is primarily a sports venue.

"It was also suggested we put a large marquee on Mary Stevens Park - but there is a covenant preventing the sale of alcohol there."

This year's festival promises to be bigger and better than ever - especially as the branch celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Approximately 90 beers plus 25 ciders and perrys will be on sale this year, making it the best selection yet.

The branch has named Mary Stevens Hospice as its chosen charity and visitors can donate by returning any unused beer tokens in a collection box situated by the main entrance.

Mr Hanson added: "Many people think we get the beer donated to us, which is not the case. We have to buy it at the same rate as pubs.

"We are conscious of the economic problems at this time and despite rising costs, we have tried to keep our prices similar to last year so we can give value for money."

This year's festival gets underway on Thursday April 10 from 7 to 11pm and visitors are advised to arrive early.

The festival also takes place on Friday April 11 and Saturday April 12 from noon until 11pm.