HONESDALE – A local brewery plans to offer guided tours through a series of caves that had been used in the 1800s by the original Irving Cliff Brewery to store and chill the beverages prior to the advent of refrigeration.
The caves, which sit at the base of Irving Cliff in the area of Watts Hill Road and Riverside Drive, were built in 1851 to store beer and ice, the latter of which was harvested from waterways including the adjacent Lackawaxen River.
Brian Cobb, owner of the current Irving Cliff Brewery on Chapel Street, has leased the caves and hopes to offer the tours as soon as Memorial Day.
Cobb noted the tour would be one of only two tours on the East Coast of caves that had been used for such a purpose back in the 1800s.
“It's really exciting and definitely unique to this area,” Cobb said. “And it ties into microbrewery, which is so popular right now.”
The interior of the caves need to be cleared out since rubbish has accumulated, but they contain numerous natural attractions, including a spring running through them.
Cobb said that is how he got the idea to use spring water in his beer-making to make it more traditional, as spring water has minerals and other correct water profiles for proper brewing.
The caves are roughly 10 ½ feet in height, and include bluestone floors.
The initiative is part of a wider collaboration between Cobb and Dan Corrigan, owner of Saw Mill Cycles and the Northeast Wilderness Experience.
Corrigan is working with borough Councilman Chris Murray to mark and improve the trail system on Irving Cliff, just above the former beer caverns.
Corrigan noted that Honesdale is often marketed as a shopping destination, but it has much more to offer in the way of recreational activities.
Corrigan and Murray also are working on expanding the trail to connect Gibbons Park atop Irving Cliff to Apple Grove Park off Fair Avenue.
“We have a lot of hidden gems here when it comes to outdoor activities and we want to do what we can to take advantage of them,” Murray said at recent council meeting.
The cave tours and trail improvements all relate to bringing people to the borough and showcasing its unique attractions, Corrigan said.