It’s Not Just Beer at Bow & Arrow:
A Brewery Linking Indigenous Culture, Community
September 4, 2018
The brewing industry brought in a reported $1.6 billion in economic output in 2016, and is only continuing to climb. According to the Beer Serves America impact study, there is a total 13,076 jobs connected to New Mexico’s beer sector, generating at total of $472,495,500 wages in 2017.
Is there such a thing as too many breweries? In New Mexico, the answer is a resounding “no!” Albuquerque Business First reports the state’s brewery and taproom count has more than tripled in the last six years. But even with so much competition, one company isn’t having trouble setting itself apart.
Bow & Arrow Brewing makes headlines as an industry outlier: it’s the only Native woman-owned brewery in the country. But owners Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay don’t focus on the hype. They’re steadfast in their mission to create delicious brews and foster strong community.
“In addition to being a place for great beer, we didn’t want to overlook the opportunity to curate an authentic experience. Being a gathering place was really important to us,” Sheppard says. “You see that reflected in the layout: long communal tables, an open floor plan. We wanted to create an environment that’s conducive to interaction and community.”
The facility itself, a 10,000-square foot renovated warehouse, was honored with an Eagle Award from the NAIOP real estate association in 2016 for its contribution to the revitalization and beautification of the industrial Wells Park neighborhood. The location was strategic; Sheppard and Begay live just down the street on Mountain Road and considered this business a neighborhood investment.
The industry financials back up their decision. The New Mexico Tourism Department and the Albuquerque Economic Development Department have included “beer tourism” in their strategy to bring in new types of visitors to the city. The brewing industry brought in a reported $1.6 billion in economic output in 2016, and is only continuing to climb. According to the Beer Serves America impact study, there is a total 13,076 jobs connected to New Mexico’s beer sector, generating at total of $472,495,500 wages in 2017.
Bow and Arrow Brewery owners Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay.
Breweries are not just growing the job sector either; local agriculture and suppliers are seeing a boost. Bow & Arrow uses locally sourced malts and wild harvested herbs from vendors in the state and the four corners region. These quality ingredients give their beer a connectedness to place and culture, Sheppard says. “As a Native-owned brewery, we want to make our mark by indigenizing these styles of beer.” Their recent Grisette used foraged Navajo tea, and the Denim Tux Lager is brewed with local blue corn. These thoughtfully constructed recipes are not going unnoticed–their beers are topping lists of Albuquerque must-sees in the Wall Street Journal, Bon Appetit, and National Geographic to name a few.
While the press coverage is welcome, Sheppard understands market saturation is still a challenge. “With breweries so prolific, we needed to do something unique that contributes to the industry and the economy.”
To Sheppard, contributing locally doesn’t just mean market economics. The Beer Hall has become a safe space to gather and convene, with regular community yoga classes, pop-up artist markets, and fundraising events for local nonprofits including the United Way, UNM STC Student Business Pitch Competition, the Native Women’s Business Summit and the UNM Native American Alumni Association.
“We recognize we have a diverse perspective and are in a position to leverage what we’ve created to lift up others and shine a light on this special place in the Southwest. We are inspired by our land and heritage and it’s important to us that our customers experience that,” Sheppard says. “This space we’ve created, these craft beers matter deeply to us, and we want to share that.”