Roll out the barrel for York's biggest beer fest. Picture: York CAMRA

Excitement is building as we approach York’s biggest beer festival of 2012 – the fourth Knavesmire Beer and Cider Festival. More than 320 beers and 100 ciders are on offer, it starts on Wednesday, and as the name suggests it’s back at York Racecourse.

The only difference – it’s bigger and better than 2011, which is a high benchmark to beat.

Bigger because there will be more space. The second marquee will be larger to accommodate more visitors and beers.

Better because, due to the unprecedented attendance last year of more than 7,000 visitors, the festival is opening for the first time a day earlier on the Wednesday instead of the Thursday. That will be four days of beer and cider heaven for all lovers of real ale and cider in Yorkshire and further afield.

For local licensees and brewers there will be the usual trade session, this time on the Wednesday, to give them a chance to meet and network with each other.

For everyone the choice and number of beers and ciders will be larger and better than ever. With Yorkshire now boasting the biggest number of breweries of any county – 110 at the last count – the festival will be promoting the superb choice of Yorkshire beers now available, with particular prominence given to LocAle breweries – featuring beers brewed within 25 miles of York.

Flashback to the 2011 festival. Photograph: York CAMRA

For those of you looking beyond these sceptred isles, there will of course be a foreign beers bar – featuring the best Europe has to offer and judging by the 2,300 pints drunk last year, this will prove very popular again.

The very special Festival Beer celebrating York’s 800th Birthday – named Osiemset (Polish for 800) – was brewed at the award-winning Rudgate Brewery by four York CAMRA members using three hop varieties: Marynka from Poland; Aramis from France and Cluster from America. Five Yorkshire breweries have also brewed and supplied beers exclusive to the festival.

All visitors’ needs will be catered for – literally, as there is a comprehensive menu on offer to suit all tastes in the separate food area. And to keep the party swinging there will be live music from local artists in the second marquee.

The festival dovetails nicely with the start of the nationally renowned York Food & Drink Festival and is bound to get citywide events off to a memorable start. The organisers, York CAMRA, send the message that they are very much looking forward to welcoming one and all to what has grown into an annual York institution.