Great Beer Weekends in the Mid-Atlantic #7: Irving Cliff Cask Aged High Gravity Railroad strong ale; Honesdale, Pa.
Date: January 22, 2018
The Story— Honesdale is a very small, mostly main-street-only old Pennsylvania town (the Walmart is a ways past the old area and doesn’t count). You can walk from one end of the old town to the other easily. While you’re there, there are rail expeditions from the tourist center in town or you can book Rick…’s private SUV tour. A small fire house museum is opposite the old Wayne hotel. If you spend the night, you have to have breakfast at Laura’s Hometown Café and while you’re there notice the pictures of the canal boat basin. No wonder the town’s two banks (on the left heading away from the hotel) look so elegant.
The town has two breweries. Today we’re featuring the Irving Cliffs Brewery. It’s located inside a building that was home to the … Irving Cliff Brewery in the 19th century. It wasn’t killed by prohibition because it didn’t make it to prohibition, but the space has been beautifully repurposed as a much smaller brewery and much more significant tasting room and restaurant. The menu is far better than this sort of a tasting room usually presents. The fish and chips are not overly generous and a bit overcooked, but the fish was surprisingly light, tasty and clean. We’d have it again. They were out of the Elk burger so we settled for a near perfect local farm buffalo.
The beers vary and to be honest, some of the lighter ones are good home-brew and some of the fruit beers are examples of what caused the crash of craft beers in the 90s. But the slightly bigger beers—the pale ale for example—are solid and easy to drink all night. The bar staff couldn’t be nicer. It’s a wonderful place to kick back and enjoy a whole bunch of samplers or just savor a few pints. We were grateful that they were able to give us half-pint pours of the beers—it allowed us to sample their full range and work our way up their gems. Plan your evening carefully; the tasting room closes at ten, though the hotel bar stays open until midnight.
Honedale’s a cute slice of rural America, but it’s worth the trip for an evening at Irving Cliff.
The Beer— The High Gravity Railroad strong ale is a fine example of brewmaster Gary Sadavage’s skill with a barrel. Beers come out clean and enhanced rather than dominated by the wood. This one is sweet rich and clean and unusually woody. It’s shows wine and and some sweet and the white grapes grow with each sip. Good example of how even a small brewery can lovingly tend a cask to success. Barrel lightens, brightens and dries a bit. Huge imprint of a good foundation. Not Thomas Hardy- it lacks the depth of body, but for sure not bad. Deadly but we all gotta go sometime.
Value — Good to very good. Pints at about half the price of a pint.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
For a couple of weeks, we’re presenting some fun towns to explore and have a beer. There’s all within a few hours drive if you live in the Mid Atlantic. Most are near enough a place to stay that you can walk back to your room. We’ve found these in researching out first US Beer publication: Brews and Snooze-– Breweries you can visit and walk back to a fine place to spend the night. Look for it later this year.
Did you miss our Ten Beers for the New Year? These are full flavored chewy beers for a winter’s night and a good fire — even if it has to be on your cable station. The links are below.
Jailbreak Coffee Dusk Till Dawn, Tröegs Mad Elf Grand Cru, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Boulevard Manhattan Cask Still Ale, Ommegang Game of Thrones Series: Mother of Dragons, Lickinghole Creek Carrot Cake Imperial Amber Ale, Colbitzer Heide-Brauerei Schwarz, Lickinghole Creek One Lion Imperial Stout, Founders Dank Wood, Stone Woot Stout.
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”