There are a lot of breweries in New Mexico, but one located in Albuquerque stands apart from any other in the country.
“When we take a moment to reflect on where we are in this industry and where we’ve come, it is very humbling,” says Shyla Sheppard, the owner of Bow and Arrow Brewing.
Sheppard and her partner, Missy Begay, are breaking down barriers in the craft beer industry. For them, opening the brewery on 5th near I-40 was about more than beer. It was about recreating pieces of their ancient cultures.
“We’re very careful and thoughtful of how we incorporate elements from our tribal backgrounds,” said Sheppard.
Sheppard grew up on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, and Begay is from the Navajo Nation.
They are the only Native American women in the entire country who own and operate a brewery.
“Along the way, we’ve found that our story does inspire other women,” said Sheppard.
Sheppard says they didn’t expect to be the first and only Native owners when they opened Bow and Arrow Brewing three years ago. But they were deliberate about brewing beers with meaningful ingredients.
“This first one is Navajo Tea, otherwise known as green thread. The other we have is local roasted blue corn that we incorporate into our house lager, ‘Denim Tux,'” said Sheppard.
Sheppard and Begay also decorated the brewery with significant pieces of Native American culture, like community style tables, pictures of iconic landscapes and even a big, faux buffalo head hanging on the wall, a nod to a lesson learned from Sheppard’s grandpa.
“He would tell us in the fiercest blizzards and storms, the buffalo, they don’t turn their back on it. He said just remember to be like the buffalo, to face the storm and just keep pushing forward,” said Sheppard.
Sheppard hopes their story inspires more diversity in the craft brew business.
“If there are other women, native women passionate about craft beer, absolutely,” said Sheppard.
Sheppard and Begay’s story is spreading across the country.
“I think the fact we’ve taken a very intentional approach to highlight the special place we have in the southwest in terms of ingredients and branding. It’s captured the interest of folks both in and outside of the state. It’s really fun to share our story,” said Sheppard.
The duo was even recently featured in a national magazine and invited to the American History Museum in Washington D.C. to pour some of their beer.