American Breweriana Journal vol. 222 November/December 2019


Brewing in Honesdale, Pennsylvania


By Rich Wagner


I was taken aback when I discovered the Irving Cliff brewpub on Facebook. It was named for a nineteenth century brewery in Honesdale with vaults carved into the base of the cliff. What surprised me was that the name didn’t ring a bell even though I had photographed a vault entrance there many years ago. The Facebook page showed brewpub owner Brian Cobb conducting group tours inside the old vaults located a few blocks from the brewpub. I made a mental note to trek the hundred miles or so to take the tour sometime.


001 Caption Mural.


002 Caption House beers emphasize Irving Cliff’s literary and brewing heritage. There are also guest beers from Pennsylvania brewers. Trays from older local breweries are just some of the breweriana on display.


I hadn’t thought much about Irving Cliff brewery until John Revak, a formerly active breweriana collector from the nearby town of Carbondale contacted Larry Handy, editor of E.C.B.A.’s the KEG. He sent pics of items he has since sold, as well as images of the Fell brewery, which no longer stands. When Larry showed me what John had sent, I figured it was time to revisit the area and maybe get a tour of the vaults.


Honesdale is the Wayne County Seat, and on our way in we passed the historic marker celebrating the Stourbridge Lion, a British-made locomotive that made the first ride on rails, giving Honesdale the distinction of being the birthplace of American railroading. I would later find out that the town was named for Philip Hone, a former mayor of New York City and organizer of the Delaware & Hudson Canal, which ended in the town that would ultimately share his name. Philip Hone named the geographic feature Irving Cliff for the author Washington Irving, best known for Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, after the two hiked to the top to take in the view.


003 Caption Did Philip Hone name the cliff for Irving to add notoriety to his town?


Before the railroads came to the area, canal barges moved coal to urban centers. Great numbers of Welsh and Irish immigrants flocked to dig the canals and the coal, which may account in part for the amount of ale and porter consumed in the coal region. An extensive gravity railroad system brought coal from the surrounding countryside to Honesdale where it was loaded onto barges traveling the Delaware & Hudson canal to Kingston, New York then on the Hudson River to New York City.


Brian Cobb is the proprietor of today’s Irving Cliff Brewery. He had a printing business in a large building, and with an eye towards the future, he added a brewery in 2015. He welcomed Larry and I as the only patrons in the bar, and with the luxury of time shared his story as well as the historical information he has gathered. He had been giving busloads of people tours of the vaults but the borough put the kibosh on that over liability issues. We went upstairs where he still does some printing, most notably on the glass growlers that customers purchase for the take out trade. He showed me three Irving Cliff embossed beer bottles (the only ones I’ve ever seen), some tax stamps and items he copied from old newspapers.


Possibly the single best item is an unbound typewritten volume entitled “The Story of My Life” (1951) by Theodore F. Schimpff. Brian said some descendants showed up on his doorstep with a box they had found in their attic, which turned out to contain Theodore’s brewing notes. He would like to publish the book, which chronicles Schimpff’s career as brewmaster for the P.C.B.C. Brian shared copies of the five pages that he had scanned, which contributed considerable insights to this article.


004 Caption Wayne County Herald November 20, 1884.


005 Caption Letterhead August Hartung Brewing Co. (Cobb Collection)


006 Caption August Hartung, 1834-1900. Died at the age of 66 as a result of injuries to his spine as a result of a fall. He was born in Germany and came here with his family at the age of eight. He assisted his father running canal barges and after coming of age became proprietor of the Seelyville hotel. Later he managed a freight line from Narrowsburg to Aldenville, a bustling tanning center at the time. He came to Honesdale to run a livery and in 1868 went into partnership with Peter Krantz to run the Irving Cliff Brewery. He served one term as treasurer of Wayne county and ran a model farm in Texas Township. (Cobb Collection)


007 Caption Hartung Brewing Co. Stock Certificate (Cobb Collection)


008 Caption In 1892 Julius O. Keltz established the Irving Cliff Bottling Works across from the brewery. They made all their own soda extracts and syrups from natural fruit. After the P.C.B.C. closed the Schimpff Brewery, Keltz set up a cider press there which operated during apple season. (Cobb Collection)


009 Caption May 7, 1911 Ed Keltz making deliveries. Both the cliff and the brewery are visible in background. Keltz bottled: E. Robinson’s Sons of Scranton, Barlholomay's Rochester lager, Evan's Hudson ale, Schimpff Brewing Co. and Irving Cliff brewery lager and porter for the trade and family use. (Cobb Collection)


010 Caption Theodore F. Schimpff, Casey & Kelly branch, P.C.B.C. delegate to the 22nd Annual Brewmasters’ Convention in Detroit. (The Western Brewer October 1910)


Brian took me outside, commenting that I had parked on a section of track that the Stourbridge Lion passed over so many years ago. We walked out to a building in front of his which had been the cooperage that supplied Honesdale’s brewers with kegs. It has since been reborn as an office center. He gave us directions to the vaults of both the “upper and lower breweries” and we went to photograph them.


Both breweries were established in the mid-1850s, the first being Kessler & Burkhardt’s Irving Cliff Brewery or “upper brewery” in 1852, located at the base of the cliff. The second was established five years later by John Heinicke at Willow and Lincoln streets. This was a time when lager beer was being popularized throughout the nation and before the days of artificial refrigeration. Vaults, whether underground or carved out of solid rock, along with ice houses, were required for cold storage. As is the case with many breweries, the vaults are all that remain of the Honesdale breweries.


11 Caption 1897 Sanborn Map. The observer comparing the building in the photograph to the floorplans would be looking to the right, top to bottom corresponding to left to right in the photograph. The vaults would be to the right where there is a notation “no exposure.”


12 Caption Aside from being at the base of the cliff, an observer could see Irving Cliff by following the roofline of the brewery.


13 Caption Photograph of the Irving Cliff Hotel atop the cliff. At the base of the cliff, the Goodman bridge crosses the Dyberry River. We can barely make out the brewery to the right amongst the trees.


014 Caption Recent view of the “upper brewery vault” or Hartung & Krantz’s vault at the base of the cliff.


015 Caption September 2, 1016 “Ghost Finders” host Rob Thompson explores the Irving Cliff vaults. (Facebook)


016 Caption Entrance to the Schimpff Brewery or “lower brewery” vaults. In 1910 Patrick McCarty announced plans to raze the brewery, build a residence and have enough timber and bricks remaining to build a factory. He leased the springs for use by Schiessler & Bunnell’s Honesdale Cash Bottling Works.


017 Caption 1897 Sanborn Map P.C.B.C. purchased the Schimpff brewery and closed it. John Kuhbach purchased the property and adapted it as a paint factory.


In 1867 Jacob Lauer became proprietor of the “lower brewery” and a year later August Hartung Peter Krantz purchased the “upper” or Irving Cliff Brewery from Charles Robinson, a member of the family who owned Scranton’s premier brewery. It is likely that Robinson had it for only a short time as the new partners advertised in the Wayne County Herald:


Ale and Lager Beer. The undersigned having purchased the well-known brewery lately occupied by Mr. Henry Metzger, and thoroughly refitted it, are now prepared to supply hotels, saloons and private families with superior qualities of ale and lager beer, manufactured by experienced workmen from the best materials and warranted pure and wholesome in every particular.


All orders will be promptly attended to. Parties in town will have their supplies delivered free of charge. Orders by mail filled with promptness and shipments made by the most expeditious freight lines.


Hartung & Krantz, Honesdale, April 22, 1868


They made improvements over a five year period resulting in a brewery four-stories tall with a front of 100 feet and 75 feet deep, the eastern side built against the cliff containing the vaults.


Beer from Irving Cliff had been shipped along with coal by canal barge for years, developing a substantial market in New York City. Railroads greatly expanded their territory throughout northeastern Pennsylvania and a large swath of New York State. Six teams of horses provided for the local deliveries.


When Hartung & Krantz dissolved their partnership in January 1883. Hartung got the real estate and Krantz rented the brewery, cranking out around 5,000 barrels a year. He simultaneously rented another brewery in Carbondale, then purchased it in 1890 and moved there, leaving August Hartung to run the Irving Cliff Brewery.


Wayne County Herald May 13, 1886


Another splendid delivery wagon made its appearance on the streets on Monday last. It was built by Michael Hermann for Peter Krantz and besides being elaborately trimmed with evergreens, bore a showy sign, announcing that the Irving Cliff Brewery Bock was to be had that day in all first class restaurants in town.


On the evening of March 21, 1895, the Irving Cliff Bottling Works stables caught fire which spread to the main building, heating a CO2 tank which exploded, sending metal, timber and fire out in all directions. A piece of the tank weighing 40 pounds was found 400 feet away across the Lackawaxen River. Hartung’s brewery lost a barn in the blaze. Soon thereafter a fire destroyed a barn on his farm.


And on the evening of July 29, 1895, August Hartung awoke to the sound of a fire alarm. He lived in the upper floors of the brewery and quickly went through the building until he approached the engine room where flames had just ignited the ceiling. The steamers arrived and put out the fire. In the aftermath Hartung suspected arson as there were no flammable materials in either the engine room or the floor above. Not to mention it had been the third fire in as many months affecting him. The third floor of the brewery was mostly destroyed. He had just received a carload of malt which was lost along with 75 bags of hops and other material. Most of the kegs and household furniture was saved and it appeared that engines and machines were still serviceable. He estimated $50,000 loss, half the value of which was insured.


John Kuhbach married Augusta W. Hartung and in 1897 purchased a half interest in her father’s brewery. When they sold to the P.C.B.C., his father-in-law retired and John became branch manager.


0018 Caption Hon. John Kubach. August Hartung’ son-in-law was a member of the bar and served as state representative from Wayne county before becoming chief burgess of Honesdale. As a young man working for the D. & H. Canal Co. he became assistant postmaster. After being branch manager of the Irving Cliff brewery he became a sales agent for the P.C.B.C. there after the brewery closed He was a director and vice-president of the Farmers and Mechanics bank of Honesdale and Wayne County Herald; vice-president of both the Wayne Cut Glass Co. in Towanda and the Fire Insurance Co. of Scranton. He purchased the Guckenberger brewery after it closed and set up the Honesdale Paint Co. there, becoming its vice-president. He was from Texas Township and served as director of public schools there. Died November 1911.


019 Ad P.C.B.C. Hartung branch, John Kuhbach, manager. (Wayne County Historical Society)


At the same time that Hartung & Krantz split, John Guckenberger purchased the “lower brewery.” He introduced steam power bringing capacity to 7,000 barrels of beer and 2,000 barrels of ale per year. John died in 1890 and his brother Charles managed the brewery for six years until his health began to fail and the brewery was sold to Emil and Leo Schimpff in the fall of 1896. Theodore had just graduated from Scranton Business College and went to work with his older brothers at the brewery. In “My Life Story” he described it as small, “such there is none left in the United States any more; the size of the brew kettle was of a capacity of 50 barrels, and the total sales amounted to about $6,000 per year.”


Wayne County Herald March 25, 1897


...Schimpff lager beer is manufactured from the finest imported hops and Canadian malt, and having at command the services of an accomplished and skillful, scientific brewer, the company is able to place on the market a lager beer which is deservedly in great favor with the public and with the trade. If you should keep any refreshments in your larder at home you will find the lager beer of the Schimpff Brewing Co. a very healthful beverage, as it is a well-known fact in Honesdale that it is the purest beer on the market to-day. If you are reduced in vitality or strength, try Schimpff lager beer. It is guaranteed absolutely pure. It creates strength, improves the appetite, and is nature's own remedy, being preferable to drugs. It is the favorite beverage of brain workers and those exhausted from physical exertion, whose system requires a pure, wholesome and stimulating tonic. Physicians in this city endorse it in pleasing flavor and invigorating in effect...


Wayne County Herald July 29, 1897


There is much talk of the sale of the Honesdale breweries to a trust. Inquiry at headquarters discloses the fact that although there is considerable smoke there is but little fire as yet. Meanwhile our breweries will continue to send out from their cool storage vaults under our cliffs the best lager to be found anywhere.


In September the paper reported the capitalists, who were “mostly Philadelphians” had struck a deal and would assume management the first of October. It’s interesting that both of Honesdale’s breweries changed hands just before the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Company was formed. Schimpff offers some insights: “In 1897 an amalgamation of breweries was formed and a new organization made up of some 15 breweries called the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Company, of the following plants:


Pennsylvania Central Brewing Co., Branches


ABIII

Branch

City

Closed

PA 216

A. Hartung

Honesdale

1910

PA 217

Emil Schimpff

Honesdale

1897

PA 65.39

Peter Krantz

Carbondale

1920

PA 127

Dickson City

Dickson City

1899

PA 764

E. Robinson

Scranton

1933

PA 763

M. Robinson

Scranton

1897

PA 755

Casey & Kelly

Scranton

1934

PA 759

*Lackawanna

Scranton

1920

PA 762

M. Hand Ale Brewery

Scranton

1910

PA 168

Forrest Castle

Exeter

1912

PA 700

**Hughes & Glennon

Pittston

1912

PA 848

Reichard & Weaver

Wilkes-Barre

1920

PA 206

Arnold

Hazelton

1931

PA 208

***Pilsner

Hazelton

1920

PA 207

Germania

Hazelton

1910


* 1943

** 1948

*** 1954


When the amalgamation was formed the Schimpff Brewery and the Forrest Castle Brewery were closed by the new company to eliminate competition; and Emil and Leo Schimpff were given positions in the main offices of the company, and I went to work to finish my apprenticeship at the The Long Island Brewery on Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn, New York. In the fall of 1898 I enrolled in the American Brewing Academy ...in New York City; graduated June 30, 1899. Coming back to Scranton, I worked as First Kettle Man at the M. Hand Ale Brewery from August 1899 to July 8, 1900.


At that time Mr. Charles Robinson was the president of the P.C.B.C. as well as manager of the E. Robinson Brewery, and he knowing that I had graduated from a brewing school, Mr. Robinson sent his office boy down to me at the kettle in the brewery, with a note which read, ‘Theodore, can you make beer?’ ...this kind of took me off my pins as I had been saving my money, and my mind was made up to try and get a job in one of the larger breweries either in St. Louis or Milwaukee; therefore this was out, now how should I answer? I can make beer or I cannot make beer, if I said I could not make beer my chances with the P.C.B.C. would be entirely gone, I therefore answered, ‘Yes I can make beer.’ ...the office boy brought the answer, it was as follows, “Go home, change your clothes, bid your mother goodbye, tell her you have accepted the Brew Mastership at the Hartung Brewery at Honesdale, Pennsylvania, return to me at once, so that I can give you your expenses, and I want you to take a letter of introduction to the manager of the plant, Mr. John Kuhbach...”


While not overwhelmed, Schimpff wrote that running such a brewery was no easy task, providing him character building experiences that served him well later in life. He said the only outside competition was Ballantine beer from Newark, which amounted to eight or ten barrels a week served in just four hotels, noting that it wasn’t worth it for brewers to send refrigerated cars to such a small town.


When the old beer stock ran out, his beer was an immediate success solidifying his reputation as a skilled brewmaster. He received accolades all around that translated into increased sales. Once he established his reputation, he sent his resignation to the P.C.B.C. in order to fulfill his dream of working for a large shipping brewery in the Midwest. Hearing no response from the company he continued his attempts to resign; one letter a month for a year. Finally, after saving his money, he enrolled at the Wahl-Henius brewing school in Chicago and told the P.C.B.C. they’d have to find a replacement as he would be in Chicago for four months.


He was taking his final exams when he received a telegram from the P.C.B.C. telling him he was the new brewmaster at the Krantz Brewery in Carbondale and that he should report immediately. He replied that he was in the middle of his exams and would not leave without a diploma. The company knew that his additional training would only enhance his skill and held the position open with eager anticipation of his return.


20 Caption Recent view of the stable of the Krantz Brewery in Carbondale.


21 Caption A walled up entrance to a vault of the Krantz Brewery in Carbondale.



Wayne County Herald August 31, 1899


The vaults which originally were but little caves dug out of the red shale rock, are now spacious rooms extending back under the ledges of Irving Cliff. Vast tubs and casks are filled with the fragrant decoction of malt and hops in different stages of fermentation. Electric lights illume the dark recesses, and little channels, cut in the solid floors carry away the water that filters in through the rock. Instead of the old fashioned cooler, which was simply a vast floor raised for three or four inches at the sides to retain the cooling beer, there is now a complicated maze of pipes filled with ice cold water around which the beer is circulated, and gets the proper temperature in quick metre.


Then through the whole brewery, wherever coolness is required, pipes of an inch and a quarter in diameter traverse the ceilings. Through these pipes circulate an ammoniacal liquid so cold that it would almost make the nether regions habitable. These pipes freeze the moisture coming in contact with them until there is a coating of ice eight inches or so in thickness about them. The amount of ice can easily be controlled from the engine room. Everything that can possibly be done by machinery is done, and the brewery almost runs itself.


Peter Krantz and his sons were running what could only be described as a family brewery in Carbondale. Here is the roster according to Schimpff: Joseph, manager; Frank, bookkeeper; John, engineer; Peter, Sr., master brewer; Henry (not a son), fireman; Andrew, first kettle man; Frank, first cellar man and Peter, Jr., first fermenting cellar man.


When Peter Krantz sold the brewery to the P.C.B.C., he went to Findlay, Ohio, and purchased a failing Brilliant City Brewing Co. He changed the name to Krantz Brewing Co. and he and his sons Joseph and Charles ran the brewery. When Peter Krantz died in 1899 Joseph and Charles remained in Ohio and three remaining brothers worked at the Krantz branch of the P.C.B.C., although they were biding their time before starting their own brewery.


When the P.C.B.C. got wind that the Krantz brothers had incorporated the Fell Brewing Co. and were building a new brewery in the nearby suburb of Simpson they were fired, and of course, ended up working at Fell when it opened. Theodore showed up to manage the Krantz branch in February 1902 with the seemingly impossible task of staffing the brewery with no talent pool from which to draw. After running the Krantz branch, Schimpff was transferred to the Casey & Kelly branch in Scranton.


Over a two year period P.C.B.C. invested in new mash tub, brine tank and piping, then a beer filter and kegging equipment to increase capacity. Irving Cliff was one of the smaller branches serving a local trade previously supplied by two breweries. It was closed in 1910 and John Kuhbach became their local sales agent.


It is interesting to speculate what all of the P.C.B.C. branches were doing for thirteen years when it was illegal to sell “high-powered” beer. It’s hard to imagine a syndication of a dozen or more breweries, in the coal region no less, supplying only near beer to thirsty workers throughout the region.


When repeal brought beer back in 1933, the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Co. made an effort to reorganize with little success. A few of their branches reopened under different management but neither the Krantz or Hartung branches returned. Ironically only Fell, organized by the Krantz family, came back and lasted for nearly twenty years until management decided to call it quits in 1951 after the local union got a contract for a cost of living raise.


022 Caption Author’s P.C.B.C. Exhibit at the National Brewery Museum in Potosi, 2011.


023 Caption Brian Cobb with one of his custom printed growlers. (Facebook)


024 Caption Growler


025 Caption Rip’s Purple Ale label. (Facebook)


026 “The Lion” in front of today’s Irving Cliff Brewery. (Facebook)


Note: This is the article/captions as submitted to the editor and not all pics were published in the article.


The Wayne County Historical Society intends to reprint an abbreviated version of this article in their quarterly newsletter next year.


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