Queens, the neighborhood of Astoria specifically, is home to some of the most sophisticated palates in the world – connoisseurs of gogigui, seekers of aged cheeses and organic beef, devotees of the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden. Additionally, Western Queens, which includes Long Island City, has so much existing manufacturing infrastructure. Why is it, then, with all of this interest and resources, that Queens does not have any craft breweries?
In fact, there used to be numerous breweries in Queens, located primarily in Ridgewood, but Prohibition wiped them out. Now, a few are coming back as the market for craft beers remains strong, there are so many distributions points throughout the Tri-State Area, and entrepreneurs are recognizing Queens as a place for innovation and community.
Case in point: Rich Buceta is launching SingleCut Beersmiths, a 5,000 square foot brewery that will bravely serve the fastidious and opinionated craft beer patron with carefully calibrated and lovingly made beers. The focus of SingleCut’s products will be lagers – Buceta sees an opportunity in the marketplace for them – and his creations will be hops-forward.
Rich Buceta grew up in Jamaica, Queens and attended Queens College. His earliest associations of beer are of reward and refreshment – his parents would give him a cold beer in exchange for cutting the lawn. Following societal expectations, he did the grind for ten years in advertising, all the while expanding his knowledge of global beers and experimenting with home brewing. When he saw that he would not be happy in the competitive environment of the upper echelons of agency life, he turned to what had been his passion all along, tasting, drinking and brewing beer.
He quit his advertising job, perfectly willing to learn the ropes from the bottom, and was hired by Greenpoint Beerworks/Kelso of Brooklyn, commuting from his home on the Upper East Side. “I went from a corner office to cleaning kegs,” Buceta recalls. Within eight months the brewer had quit, presenting an opportunity for him to learn and run all operational aspects of the brewery. After a stint with Greenpoint, he decided to start his own shop and, after successfully undergoing some tenacious fundraising in a very challenging fiscal climate, he founded SingleCut.
Buceta is deeply inspired by the Belgian beer standards, those well established and time-honored traditions carefully implemented to uphold quality. He cites Sierra Nevada of California as an operation he admires, and acknowledges there are outstanding breweries in Vermont, Oregon and Pennsylvania. However, he feels that on a local level, there are too many so-called artisanal beers that are less than exceptional, and he hopes to prevail in the long run as a leader amongst New York City craft beer brewers.
SingleCut Beersmiths plans to begin production and distribution of beers mid-September and open its doors to visitors as a tasting and take-out venue mid-October. Five varieties will initially be offered: a premium pilsner titled “1933,” the year Prohibition was lifted; a hoppy lager with a unique profile featuring spices; two IPAs at two strengths – 5% and a more robust 6.6%; and a mahogany ale. He also plans to produce seasonals throughout the year, a good reason to come back throughout the year to taste.
Buceta has signed a ten-year lease on his warehouse in Astoria and construction is well underway. SingleCut is at 19-33 37th Street, near the Steinway & Sons piano factory, about seven blocks from the subway Astoria – Ditmars Boulevard stop on the N or Q. Come fall, visitors will be able to sample beers, buy beer to take home and listen to live music, another passion of the owner’s.
SingleCut Beersmiths is not alone on the Queens craft beer scene. Also new is the Rockaway Brewing Company in Hunter’s Point, established by two residents of Far Rockaway, which is mostly concentrating on ales.
Note: This is a follow up to our previous post SingleCut brewery plans to open in Astoria this fall