One of the city’s beer giants passed away over the weekend. Marty Friedland, 83, owned and operated the Edward I. Friedland beer distributorship in Hunting Park.
He was a true visionary, one of America’s earliest Guinness distributors, giving Philly its first taste of the famous stout (along with Bass and Harp) in the late 1960s. Over the years, his company was way out ahead of the curve on exotic imports and microbrews.
His son, Ed, remembers importing Bellevue Gueuze in the late 1970s, and selling it or $23.50 for a case of 24 corked bottles. “And people would holler about the price like we were raping them,” Ed said. “The gueuze flopped. It was ’spoiled’ beer in this country.” But the Kriek did a bit better, packaged as quarter-liter bottles for $12.95 a case. “We took out ads in the early morning on WDAS,” Ed said, laughing, “…trying to sell cherry beer to the brothers at 4 a.m.”
Beer wasn’t Marty’s only business. He imported Swedish mineral water in the 1960s - well before anyone ever heard of Perrier - and sold it in health food stores and gourmet shops.
“He did a lot of things before his time,” said Ed.
After Marty retired he passed the business to his son, who expanded its portfolio to include the city’s widest selection of micros and imports, especially Belgians. (In 2004, Ed was knighted by the Belgium Brewer’s Guild for his work in expanding interest in Belgian beer in the U.S.) Friedland’s large portfolio of brands was eventually sold to Kunda Beverage in King of Prussia, and then to Origlio Beverage.
Perfectly attired and always offering a box of chocolates during business calls, Marty was a fine, hard-working gentleman who loved to kibbitz with customers. The most moving comments during yesterday’s funeral service came from retired Judge Joseph Bruno, who spoke not about beer, but about their long friendship. Of simple things, like dinners at local restaurants, travel and a hat that Bruno gave Marty as a gift.
Marty’s wife, Edith, who worked side by side with him at the distributorship, survives him. Many of you know Marty’s son, Ed, and his grand daughter, Katie, who both now work at Origlio Beverage. Please share your condolences.