Rich Buceta sold his collection of vintage guitars to raise money to open SingleCut Beersmiths, which he did in 2012 in Astoria, Queens. A few of those 25 models, like the 1955 Gibson Les Paul, he has purchased again, and they adorn the walls of his apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side. But since opening SingleCut, now considered one of New York City's standout breweries, his attention has shifted to building a music collection of another kind: vinyl records.
Buceta, who had left a career in advertising and taken a job cleaning kegs at a local brewery to pursue his dream of starting his own brewing operation, has amassed more than 1,000 LPs for SingleCut's tasting room. The records are organized alphabetically on several shelves flanking the bar in the airy industrial space, which has high ceilings; smooth concrete floors, communal wood tables; hanging metallic lamps; a black upright piano, a gift from the legendary Steinway & Sons, whose factory is adjacent to the brewery; and an elevated stage for live music, where the owner and head brewer can regularly be seen performing with his three-piece band, Bandsaw. (Unsurprisingly, he's the guitarist.)
On a recent afternoon, while Buceta removed a few discs from their sleeves – among them The Sheepdog's latest album, Future Nostalgia – and cleaned the vinyls with a soft cloth, he classified his collection as "mostly melodic rock. From there it veers off into a lot of different paths: modern pop rock, new wave, classic rock, some hard rock, some grunge."
"We tend to dig deep into an artist’s catalogue and choose some of the more obscure stuff to play," he added a few minutes later. "I like the idea of people coming into the taproom and not knowing what they're hearing."
One could argue that same element of surprise has been a theme throughout SingleCut’s rise to the top tier of New York City's breweries. Launching with a strong focus on lagers, it has become best known for its hoppy creations, many of which are hazy, juicy, double dry-hopped New England-style IPAs packaged in 16-ounce cans and sold primarily from its facility.
But whether it's this increasingly adored type of hoppy pale or others in the wide variety of beers SingleCut produces, including sours and stouts, music has always been central to the brewery: Its name refers to a style of guitar; the “S” in its logo bears resemblance to a guitar body; and tap handles are fashioned as the instrument. Moreover, all of its beers are named for bands or song lyrics.
"The beer and music industries are a lot more similar than people think," Buceta told me while playing a few songs from The The's Mind Bomb. "When executed brilliantly, both command your attention. Hardcore fans take great joy in discovering you, but may quickly discard you once the masses catch on. And my favorite, you're only as good as your latest release."
As someone who has married his love of beer and music in SingleCut, it's no surprise that Buceta has always taken the role of curating the playlist during drinking hangouts with his friends. "It's a really important job because atmosphere is a critical component of enjoying beers in good company," he said. For his brewery's tasting room, the aim is a convivial vibe. "We want you to come and hang out for a bit, drink some great beers, and hear some great tunes."
In that vein, Buceta happily obliged to create a playlist for us comprising bands and songs that inspired some of SingleCut's beers. With it is a key of corresponding beer names and why each track holds meaning for him.
1) Why Pamper Life's Complexities? (Wild Ale) / The Smiths - "This Charming Man"
The Smiths are in my top three bands of all time. So unbelievably original. The equally and oppositely enigmatic pair of Morrissey and Johnny Marr! And listen to those basslines!
2) Shine On Brett Lemonale (Wild Ale) / John Lennon - "Instant Karma"
John Lennon, and further, The Beatles, are the very best. Simply. You might disagree, but you'd be wrong.
3) Jim Is Workin' Hard (IPA) / Kiss - "Deuce"
I've never been a Kiss fan. But they did put out the occasional great song, and they trace back a lot of their history to Queens, so this was a tribute to some hometown guys making it big.
4) Softly Spoken Magic Spells (Double IPA) / Pink Floyd - "Breathe (Reprise)"
Dark Side of the Moon is a classic, but I've always preferred Animals. It has the all-time best album cover.
5) Billy Full-Stack (Double IPA) / The Cult - "Hollow Man"
Billy Duffy had a unique and intense style, especially in the early days of The Cult. He was a revivalist and an innovator, just like the modern brewer.
6) Bon Bon 2 x TNT (Double IPA) / AC/DC - "Bad Boy Boogie"
Early AC/DC, when Bon Scott was still alive, was so raw and powerful, like nothing that had come before.
7) KT66 (IPL) / Led Zeppelin - "Tea for One"
My favorite Zep blues song, played on an amp with KT-66 tubes, the perfect blues tone.
8) Are You Ready Steve? (IPA) / The Sweet - "Fox on the Run"
The Sweet has the perfect hard-rock/pop sound. This song is on the same album as "Ballroom Blitz" on the U.S. release, which opens with the shout, "Are you ready, Steve?," in reference to bassist Steve Priest.
9) Heavy Boots of Lead (Imperial Stout) / Black Sabbath - "Iron Man"
Paranoid was the first Sabbath album I heard when I was a kid. It blew my mind!
10) Jan Olympic White Lager (Pale Lager) / Focus - "Sylvia"
Jan Akkermann from the Dutch band Focus is one of my favorite guitarists. Using jazz, rock, and classical: a true original.
11) Tell Shaky and Boxcar Joe (Double IPA) / Howlin' Wolf - "Wang Dang Doodle"
Howlin' Wolf is my single favorite bluesman. He was Zeppelin's too.
12) Weird & Gilly (IPA) / David Bowie - "Hang On To Yourself"
This beer was named in honor of Bowie's incredible rhythm section during his "Ziggy Stardust" phase. Don't let the frontman fool you; the rhythm section, especially the drummer, is the crucial element of any band.
13) Harry Doesn't Mind (Double IPA) / Dire Straights - "Sultans of Swing"
Consider how incredible Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits were: They came out with their first album, which has this song, in the midst of the disco era. This is a song I never tire of hearing.
14) Workers Are Going Home (Double IPA) / Weezer - "My Name is Jonas"
The Blue Album is their first and best in my humble opinion.
15) Kim Hibiscus Sour Lager (Berliner Weisse) / Pixies - "Debaser"
Part of the Pixies' great uniqueness was the vocal tracks by Kim Deal. One of my favorite bands to come out of the '90s.
16) Dean PNW Mahogany Ale (Amber Ale) / Stone Temple Pilots - "Trippin' On A Hole In A Paper Heart"
STP were the best of the grunge period. Great songs and musicianship, and Dean DeLeo is top-to-bottom one of my all-time favorite guitarists.
17) EL34 (Session IPL) / UFO - "High Flyer"
UFO are one of the best and most unsung hard-rock bands. Listen to the elegance of the playing on this track, it's simply beautiful. UFO used some EL34 tubed amps on this song, as well.
18) Charlie's Good Tonight (IPA) / The Rolling Stones - "Angie"
Charlie Watts is the life blood of The Stones that never gets credit. Come on, Mick! He sounds good every night!
19) Chrissie (Gose) / The Pretenders - "The Adulteress"
Chrissie Hynde has the most classic rock voice of all time, and it's aged like fine wine. Check out The Pretenders latest album, Alone, produced by Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys.
20) Mo' Shuggie Soulbender (IPA) / Shuggie Otis - "Strawberry Letter 23"
This little nerdy-looking kid is the hidden prince of blues rock. His voice may have shaken a little bit, but his fingers were magic. He should've been Eric Clapton.