March 7, 2019 by Kay Byrne
Swansea Bay Beer & Cider festival has got new organisers – and they could be the youngest Camra beer festival organisers ever.
Chris Freestone, 24, and Aaron Brown, 25, have taken over the reins of the annual festival at Brangwyn Hall, following the retirement of Chris Radford, who has been running the event for 5 years.
Chris and Aaron are both students at Swansea University.
Aaron was a fan of real ale from early on as his dad brewed beer and he went on to work at beer festivals at in Surrey and Southampton.
“I think we could be the youngest Camra beer festival organisers ever,” said Aaron, “but we’ve both got plenty of experience of bars and beer festivals!”
He came to Swansea to take a masters degree in Geography and is now studying for a PhD, so this is his fourth Swansea Bay beer festival as well.
Chris came to beer later, after he moved to Swansea to study.
“I’d never tried real ale until I went on a pub crawl and tried a pint of ale at the Wig and Pen. I thought ‘This is quite nice!’ and I’ve been drinking it ever since.”
He and Aaron then helped set up a real society at the university. Chris also oversees the students’ union bars in his role as elected Societies and Services Officer.
The friends have been given beer festival training by Camra too and are now Camra certificated bar managers.
Aaron said: “Chris Radford has made our job so much easier because of the work he’s put in over the past few years. He’s got every detail covered from costs to risks to procedures.
“We’ve got all the main roles for the festival covered already. About 50 people turned up to the first beer festival meeting and a lot of people are willing to help out.
“We’ll build on what Chris Radford left us, it’s evolution, not revolution.”
And what is their view of keg/craft ale?
“There won’t be any keg beer at the festival. What Camra says goes. But there will be some beers you normally find in keg on offer in cask for the first time.”
Aaron’s favourite tipple is a dark beer like a porter or a stout, Chris meanwhile likes pale ales, golden ales and is not averse to a pint of stout either. With such wide ranging tastes, it looks like visitors to the festival this August can look forward to all sorts of taste sensations.
Chris Radford, meanwhile, is looking forward to being on the other side of the bar at this year’s festival at the Brangwyn Hall from 22nd – 24th August.
Swansea Camra chairman Paul James paid tribute to Chris’s hard work over the past five years.
“I’d like to thank Chris on behalf of all Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Camra members for the sterling work he has put in to ensure the smooth running of every single aspect of the festival. His attention to detail and capacity for hard work is legendary and he deserves to put his feet up now and have a few pints himself.
“Meanwhile, I am enthused by the prospect of an injection of fresh ideas as proposed by the new festival team led by Chris Freestone and Aaron Brown.”
Chris Radford bowed out saying: “When I took over the festival from Debra White it was already a successful event. The biggest issue for me was that things weren’t formalised or written down, so no one person knew how it all worked. Much of my work has been devoted to addressing this and getting everything more professional, with key people trained and really enjoying getting involved more, confident in what they’re doing.
“In handing over to Chris and Aaron, I was struck by the detailed questions they asked and the copious notes they took. That leaves me feeling confident that they are serious in wanting to do this well and I feel we are in good hands. It’s also going to be great to have much younger blood and ideas coming in, and I wish them well and hope they enjoy it as much as I have done.”