What is Clugh’s Brews?
Coffee shops and breweries–people from all walks of life have been gathering in these establishments for as long as they’ve existed. You’ll find students with their faces buried in their laptops, out-of-town friends sharing a hot cup of joe and catching up on each other’s lives, singles at the bar conversing with each other and the bartender, couples out on a date, and families taking their kids out for a treat. These are the places I like to frequent.
In this regular column, “Clugh’s Brews” (my last name, pronounced “clue”), I will be reviewing breweries and coffee shops from south central Pennsylvania and the surrounding region. If it is brewed, I will review it. We’ll figure out what makes each place unique and hopefully leave you with an idea if it is a place you might like to visit yourself.
Now, coffee and beer is a very subjective thing to write about, so I intend to focus a bit more on the establishment itself, their offerings and how they taste from a more generic style-standpoint not just from my own personal taste. For example, I have a love-hate relationship with IPAs.
Don’t get me wrong; they’re great. I love a good IPA, especially paired with spicy food. But do we really need a buttered rum and banana nut bread quadruple dry hopped imperial black IPA with lactose? Maybe someone out there has been looking for that exact beer, but that would be a “no thank you” from me.
This week’s trip to Cushwa
Cushwa Brewing Company first opened its doors in 2017. The brewery is located in Williamsport, Maryland, in an unassuming industrial park called the Bowman Business Park at 10210 Governor Lane Blvd.
There are quite a few brick-faced storefronts in the business park and Cushwa is all the way in the back and faces Interstate 81.
My wife, Brooke, and I visited Cushwa on a Friday evening in December. The brewery was easy to find and just a short distance off of the highway. There was plenty of parking available once we arrived and upon walking in, there were several tables available as well.
We picked a four-person table instead of the big “community” high top tables along the side. In the center of the table was an upright specials menu with a QR code that we were able to scan from our phones to open up the full tap list with descriptions of the beers.
Cushwa has a large, open seating area with plenty of space for people to enjoy their brews without bumping into each other. The brewery was full, but not crowded during our visit. We saw families, groups of friends and quite a few dogs. With the holidays right around the corner, we suspect some of the usual crowd may have been preoccupied with shopping and other activities.
Inside was bright and clean. In the back was a large glass wall where you could see their brewery production, which was a nice touch for the atmosphere. The bar is long and during our visit had green and red lightbulbs for the holidays. They had a few large TVs on the walls, all of which were playing the Christmas movie “Home Alone.”
One drawback with the big, open, industrial hard-surface design is the lack of sound deadening materials and it was certainly loud, but not unreasonable. We were able to have a conversation without much of a problem, but I can imagine on the busiest nights that may not be the case. Outside the brewery is a patio area with additional seating to enjoy during the warmer months of the year.
The beer list was fairly extensive with over a dozen on tap. One thing I greatly appreciated about this brewery is that they also offer cans of not-on-tap beers for on-premise consumption as a way to extend their list of offerings.
The selection of various styles was great, with an emphasis on IPAs, particularly hazy New England-style IPAs (and I wasn’t complaining about that!).
They had five year-round beers, of which four were traditional German-style beers and one was English. The rest of their draft offerings consisted of a rotating list of various styles.
I wasn’t able to differentiate if any on the rotating list were “scratch” or “small batch” test-type beers. They offer 32oz Crowler cans to-go, as well as 4-packs of their canned beers.
On the menu was also a limited-edition 500ml barrel aged imperial stout for $15. For non-beer drinkers, Cushwa offers wine, cocktails, hard cider, kombucha, nitro cold-brew coffee from River Bottom Roasters, beermosas (beer and orange juice), beer-based slushies, plus some additional non-alcoholic drinks and snacks at the bar.
After perusing the menu and settling on our first round, I went with the Karmic Event, a 7% ABV New England hazy IPA. Brooke chose the Velvet Robe, a 6.5% oatmeal stout.
The Karmic Event was a standard NEIPA. Lots of citrus and not particularly bitter. Soft and well balanced. All around it was just enough of everything without being too much of anything. Right up my alley.
The Velvet Robe was good but not outstanding. It had a great full body, somewhat heavy, but that’s to be expected. What I didn’t particularly care for is that it was a bit more acidic than I like a stout to be, especially for an oatmeal stout. It would be a one-and-done for me. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, I just don’t prefer those type of stouts.
Just after ordering our drinks, we also ordered a pizza from Rad Pies. Cushwa partnered with Rad Pies to offer up some crazy sounding but incredibly delicious food (mostly pizza, but also a few subs and salads) for the brewery patrons or for takeout.
Rad Pies is on the left side of the brewery and has large glass walls so you can watch them flip the pizza. To order, they have digital kiosks, very similar to a Sheetz MTO system, but with a credit card reader. You choose your menu items, punch in your phone number, and insert your card. Fifteen to 20 minutes later you get a text (or phone call) that your order is ready at the counter. Impressive!
We ordered a ‘What’s The Big Dill’ pizza. The Rad Pies menu says this has roasted garlic cream sauce, mozzarella, cheddar, pickled jalapeno, banana peppers, dill pickles, Tajin seasoning, basil, and “Thicc-Fil-A sauce”.
This pizza was seriously the best pizza I’ve ever had. I thought it sounded weird when we placed our order, but the flavors meld together so well it was incredible! Some of the bites were intensely spicy so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you like your chicken wings hot instead of mild or you order your Thai food on the Thai heat scale instead of the American scale.
Rad Pies has a brick pizza oven which means you don’t get soggy doughy pizza but nicely crisped, firmer, lightly blistered delicious pizza. If you’ve never had brick oven pizza or Rad Pies, you are most definitely missing out.
The pizza prices are slightly more than your typical pizza shop. They range from $11 to $18 with the average being about $16 for a 12-inch pizza with toppings. There was just enough for my wife and I to share.
Rad Pies theme is very retro, Outrun arcade-like. Funky neon colors. Unique and refreshing for a pizza joint. They even had a Space Invaders arcade game, though it was powered off during our visit, presumably due to Covid.
After finishing the first pieces of our pizza we decided to get a couple of the 5-ounce “sample size” tasters that you’d typically get with a beer flight.
I decided to go with the Collective Dream, a New England style pale ale, coming in at 6% ABV and 30 IBU. This was a solid, standard pale ale. Besides being very thick, almost as if it was brewed with lactose (it wasn’t), nothing particularly stood out to me, which is a good thing. It was a fruity, hoppy, easy drinker and was quite refreshing. Another well-done New England-style beer from Cushwa. I can see why these appear to be their specialty.
Brooke went with the Next Episode, a 5.5% coffee cream ale. This beer mentions “Hold up, heyyyy” in the description, clearly a reference to the lyrics at the end of Dr. Dre’s 1999 rap song of the same name. What the song has in common with a cream ale, I have no idea, but the beer was the best of the four we tasted that night. The cream ale was brewed with River Bottom Roasters’ Lock 44 coffee blend as well as lactose. It was clean and delicious. Imagine a strong, light-roast coffee with a touch of cream, but in beer form. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for a good cream ale and this was the best I’ve had. Perfectly done, Cushwa!
With our night coming to an end, I have to say I was quite impressed. The beers were great, the food was fantastic, the atmosphere was what you’d expect from an industrial type brewery. Overall we were very pleased with our visit and look forward to stopping by Cushwa and Rad Pies again to try more of their unique creations.
Adam Clugh is the Content Curator for Local.News, a tech geek, beer connoisseur and a new dad. To suggest a brewery or coffee shop to be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org.