When Shyla Sheppard—a social impact investor and member of the Three Affiliated Tribes—and her wife and business partner, Missy Begay—a doctor, expert in wild desert botanicals, and member of the Navajo Nation—decided to create a brewery, they wanted to do so in a way that would honor their cultural heritage. The couple, who met while studying at Stanford and initially bonded over their mutual love of craft beer, talked about getting into the business for years. By the time Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. opened in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2016, a great deal of thought had gone into every facet of the design and branding.
Brewing and distilling have a complicated history within indigenous communities, with critics citing a long, problematic legacy of colonizers weaponizing alcohol against Native Americans. Nevertheless, a growing number of Native-owned craft breweries have cropped up in recent years. For Sheppard and Begay, it was essential to make Bow & Arrow a positive, socially responsible place for their community. They’ve hosted fundraisers for everything from a local Native girls basketball team to LGBTQ+ nonprofits, as well as the Gathering of Nations, the largest powwow in the United States.
Sheppard and Begay were also careful to steer clear of stereotypical tropes and anchor Bow & Arrow instead in regionally specific details. From the bison sculpture on the wall—a nod to Sheppard’s grandfather, who raised the creatures—to the taproom’s mural, the space is a love letter to the American Southwest. That level of intentionality extends to the beer menu, which regularly showcases indigenous ingredients, including foraged wild sumac, prickly pears, Navajo tea leaves, and juniper berries. Beer names like Denim Tux, a pilsner brewed with New Mexican blue corn, are full of playful nods to indigenous culture. Virtually all ingredients, including the hops and barley grown on Billy Goat Hop Farm, are from the surrounding area.
In recent years, Sheppard and Begay have experimented with brewing beers with wild, foraged Neomexicanus hops, a hop varietal native to North America that Begay says had been used medicinally by various tribes long before Europeans showed up on these shores. They’ve also built up an ambitious barrel-aged sour program, using a foeder (a traditional Belgian-style wooden barrel for aging) and wild yeast collected from nearby lavender fields and peach orchards.
Know Before You Go
The brewery regularly hosts pop-ups with local chefs and a rotating roster of food trucks can usually be found parked near the entrance.