An Interview with Shyla Sheppard, Owner/CEO
Local Hero: Best Beverage Artisan, Beer
Photos by Stacey M. Adams
Shyla Sheppard of Bow and Arrow Brewing Co.
Growing up, Shyla Sheppard recalls her grandmother working in her garden, making their traditional foods, and sharing stories of their Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara people. These experiences ingrained in her an appreciation for the bounty of the land, its connection to a way of life and its history. Sheppard is today the founder and CEO of Bow & Arrow Brewing Co., a four-year-old Albuquerque brewery and beer hall specializing in wild, sour, and Southwest-inspired beers. With her love of funky and sour beers and the Great American Southwest, Sheppard enjoys bringing a diverse perspective to the craft beer industry.
How did you get to where you are now? What’s the backstory, and what was the moment that brought you to your current work?
I worked for almost a decade investing in other people’s businesses and loved working with passionate entrepreneurs. I took that experience and put it to use in starting Bow & Arrow. Back in college I developed a love for craft beer, eventually did some home brewing, and I’d seek out breweries whenever I traveled. I got to a point in my investing career where I was faced with either committing to raising another investment fund or taking the leap into starting my own business. That was in late 2013. I opened Bow & Arrow in February 2016 and here we are four years later!
How have your previous and outside professional experiences shaped your approach to running the brewery?
In terms of getting things off the ground, my experiences as an investor in small, privately-held businesses gave me some insight into getting a business started and some of the common pitfalls that new businesses often face.
How does your beer, and the spaces you’ve created to enjoy it, help tell the story of our corner of the Southwest?
We care about our special place in the Southwest. It’s a unique area and, for the most part, it’s arid and dry, so showcasing some of the local flora is fun and challenging. We also want to support local agriculture and the people/businesses committing themselves to this place. Some fun ingredients we’ve used include Navajo tea, sumac berries, and blue corn. You’ll also find visuals of the vast Southwest landscape in the beer hall that reinforce our connection to the land. There’s a careful balance struck between drawing from our Native backgrounds while being culturally appropriate and respectful. I think that gives us a unique style and look in the beer scene, and it also feels authentic.
You have recently developed a second taproom, the Rambler Taproom, in Farmington. What does it mean for you to expand to a new location in general, and to the Four Corners area in particular?
We are currently working on the new taproom and expect an early 2020 opening. An off-site taproom in Farmington will only deepen our roots in the Southwest. It’s very much in line with how we’ve positioned ourselves as a brand being about the American Southwest. Farmington is essentially a gateway to the Four Corners. It’s also a market we currently do not serve, and we are excited to expand our reach into the Four Corners area with a brick-and-mortar location.
Is there an issue surrounding the craft beer movement that particularly motivates you?
We bring a unique perspective to an industry that has traditionally been dominated by people who don’t look like us. It’s motivating when women or other people of color reach out and share that they’ve been watching us and have taken inspiration from what we’re doing with Bow & Arrow. So I’ve learned that representation matters and is essential to creating a more diverse industry.
What has been the biggest surprise about running the brewery? What has been the best moment so far?
People aren’t necessarily looking for flagship beers anymore, so we are constantly dreaming up new beers and ingredients to experiment with. It definitely keeps us on our toes. The best moment so far was serving our first pint of beer and someone actually paid for it!
What is your favorite beer that you’ve made so far? What’s coming on tap that you’re particularly excited for?
I feel like every new beer release is my new favorite, but I tend to particularly love our fruited sour beers that are tart and complex. We just released Desert Revival, a golden sour ale with peaches we sourced from Three Dog Farm in Los Ranchos. The thing about these beers is they take patience and special care. Most of the barrels in this blend are aged for eighteen months and we later refermented the blended beer on the juiciest peaches I’ve ever had. So as the months pass while these special beers work their magic, they are worth the wait. We have a golden sour aged on cherries from Los Ranchos in the works to commemorate our four-year anniversary in February. I can’t wait!
608 McKnight NW, Albuquerque, 505-247-9800, bowandarrowbrewing.com