FriendFest battles poverty in Kutztown

Patriot photo by Roxanne Richardson
Friend Inc. hosts its 5th annual FriendFest Benefit Beer and Wine Festival Feb. 23 with three sessions at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. at Beltzner Hall in the Kutztown Fairgrounds.
Patriot photo by Roxanne Richardson Friend Inc. hosts its 5th annual FriendFest Benefit Beer and Wine Festival Feb. 23 with three sessions at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. at Beltzner Hall in the Kutztown Fairgrounds.

Wine and beer enthusiasts poured into Kutztown for the 5th annual FriendFest Benefit Beer and Wine Festival recently.

“Knowing that the money is going towards people in need is definitely a good thing and seeing that the money is used for good, it’s not difficult to spend money for a ticket and come here to drink some good beer, try some wine and food and meet new people,” said Steve Marcucio, Connecticut.

He and his wife, Barbara, were treated to an afternoon of wining and dining by their son, Steve, and his wife, Dana, Fleetwood. Barbara said she enjoyed having the chance to taste a variety of foods and drinks that she might not have otherwise.

Although Amy Hamm, Lenhartsville, and Allison Wehr, Schnecksville, came for the wine, they also enjoyed the different beers.


Celeste and Dave Strobel, Wyomissing, said they liked the micro-breweries.

“It’s fun tasting all the different kinds and learning about them,” said Celeste.

A benefit event for Friend, Inc., Community Services in Kutztown, proceeds from the festival help families in need in Northeast Berks County.

Friend’s initial estimates about $21,000 gross was raised with an overall attendance of 700 people.

Supported by United Way, Friend not only provides services to families and individuals struggling to survive, but the non-profit social service organization also maintains a Food Pantry for those who qualify.

“In December, we hit a record for our food pantry,” said Sandra Wise, executive director for Friend,Inc. “We served 735 individuals just in that month alone so the need is increasing.”

Wise said it always lets you know you’re doing what you should be doing when someone gets to be able to not need pantry anymore, finds a job, and they’re able to sustain themselves and their family and not need Friend’s services; that’s the ultimate goal.

People poured into Beltzner Hall at Kutztown Fairgrounds to enjoy a vast sampling of wines, beers, tasty treats and music.

According to Wise, a lot of time was devoted to reaching out to the breweries and wineries for the 2013 Festival, but was rewarded with a record attendance of 18 breweries alone. Along with the breweries were six wineries and a variety of vendors including (but not limited to) jewelry, t-shirts, and food.

After sampling wine, what better than to sample some cheese as well. BAD Farm, Beth and Dave Rice, Kempton, brought a variety of new cheeses for sampling. Producing 50 pounds of cheese a week, all are hand-made with only natural ingredients. The most popular was the marinated mozzarella with the mushroom-leek jack a close second.

Besides the cheese and wine, beer seemed to top the list including the Kutztown breweries Golden Avalanche Company and Saucony Creek Brewing Company. Attendees not only sampled the beers, they learned the differences between commercial and home brews at Frank’s Home Brew stand, Kutztown, and how to brew their own beginning with the favored sample of India Pale Ale.

“It’s a very highly-hopped ale, but then we have a black IBA, we have an amber, we have a cherry porter and a Belgium Bevel and October Fest in a porter. These are examples of the types of beers you can make as a home brewer just as good as the professionals make,” said Frank McMahon, of Frank’s Home Brew.

The event was topped off with music by Stand Tall Baby Doll, Frog Holler and the Wallace Brothers Band, the later are from Kutztown.

“My favorite local bands are playing and some of my favorite local beer is here like Troegs and Saucony Creek,” said Ross Adam, Frog Holler band manager.

The festival was held in three sessions two and a half hours each with each attendee getting a choice of a beer or wine glass to use and keep. For more information about Friend, Inc. go to