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Native-Owned Brewery Bow & Arrow Needs to Be Heard


In spring 2022, Shyla Sheppard sat at an extended bench within the two-story beer corridor at Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.’s flagship location in Albuquerque, New Mexico, arranging flowers. The brewery’s co-founder and CEO, Sheppard lower the stems of purple, white, and golden blossoms, and tucked them into white ceramic vases. Within the taproom, the place ambiance is a crucial a part of the tasting expertise, no element is simply too small to flee her discover. Above her, a fake trophy mount of a sculptural white buffalo presides over the room. The sculpture reminds her every day of a lesson from her grandfather, who raised bison. He would inform her that, even in a blizzard, the buffalo would flip to face the storm.

Sheppard, who has heritage from the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara of North Dakota), and her enterprise accomplice and spouse, Dr. Missy Begay, who has Diné heritage (the time period many Navajo folks favor to explain themselves) based Bow & Arrow in 2016. They got down to merely make nice beer, however in beginning Bow & Arrow, they based the primary Native American woman-owned brewery within the U.S. and confronted down stereotypes about who helms breweries.

After Bow & Arrow’s preliminary launch, Sheppard and Begay brewed a reasonably easy lineup of conventional beers: IPAs, lagers, and stouts, with no distinctive variations. However a 12 months in, they debuted the wild and bitter beers they’ve since turn into recognized for. Bow & Arrow cultivates yeast for its wild beers from the spritely property peach tree rising on its patio and a close-by lavender farm, which additionally offers its beers a way of place. “Moving into, we had been conscious there weren’t lots of people who appeared like us. Our backgrounds made us distinctive, and we steadily needed to develop that side of what we had been doing,” Sheppard says.

Native and Indigenous components, reminiscent of blue corn, sumac, prickly pear, and juniper, weave into each Bow & Arrow beers and the brewery’s new line of laborious seltzers. “We needed to discover our connection to this particular place. The land, the folks. Indigenous components captured our creativeness,” Sheppard says. The blue corn for Denim Tux, an American pilsner that anchors their core beer record, hails from a number of miles down the freeway the place the Pueblo of Santa Ana cultivates the heritage crop, roasts it, and mills it as one among a number of tribal enterprises. And three-leaf sumac from Navajo Agricultural Merchandise Business, one other tribally affiliated enterprise, seems in a limited-release Foeder-Aged Farmhouse Ale.

Sheppard and Begay are constructing relationships with Native American farmers within the 4 Corners space close to their Farmington, New Mexico, taproom for components they plan to function in future beers, reminiscent of squash and pumpkin. And for the previous two years, they’ve foraged for neomexicanus hops, a subspecies that’s grown within the American Southwest — and, because it occurs, New Mexico — for millennia. “It’s a real American unique,” Sheppard says. “In a variety of circles, it’s an ingredient that folks get actually enthusiastic about. The truth that we’ve wild hops that develop in our personal yard, we had been fascinated.” The primary 12 months, the early harvest lent the hops a extra natural, onion taste profile to their Curio beer. “We had been like, ‘That’s cool. That’s what it needs to be.’” Final 12 months, a later harvest yielded fruitier melon notes in a pilot batch of a wet-hopped Italian pilsner.

Many of those components have cultural significance. Begay, a practising doctor along with being Bow & Arrow’s artistic director, research Native American, and specifically Diné, medicines to complement Western ones. Her analysis unearthed examples of the Diné utilizing the hops in antiseptic salves and tinctures to assist sleep. Sheppard and Begay have additionally foraged for Navajo tea, also referred to as greenthread (Thelesperma megapotamicum), which Southwest pueblos and tribes have used for medicinal and ceremonial functions for generations. It was used to assuage abdomen aches and different digestive upset, scale back fevers, and scale back dental ache, amongst different purposes. Incorporating these components into their beers lets Sheppard and Begay keep on their cultural practices whereas giving the components a brand new function. “Once you forage, it’s a must to be in an excellent place mentally,” Sheppard says. “Once you’d exit for a selected ingredient, it would conceal from you. If it does current itself, we give thanks that it has offered itself.”

Bow & Arrow has earned important raves, together with being named one among Hop Tradition’s 12 Greatest Breweries of 2021 and receiving Brewbound’s Rising Star award in 2020, and has achieved pop-culture success, even pouring on the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Competition. Though occasional naysayers amongst Sheppard’s neighborhood have criticized Bow & Arrow for incorporating components they really feel needs to be saved amongst Indigenous peoples, Sheppard brushes off these reproaches. “Something you do, particularly if it’s pushing the envelope and it’s completely different, will acquire some criticism. It’s by no means been something I imagine. I simply disagree with their opinions,” she says.

Sheppard got here to beer following a profession in social influence investing in New Mexico. She had parlayed her Stanford economics diploma right into a decade of labor immersed in entrepreneurialism, however all the time as an advisor, not an in-the-trenches enterprise proprietor herself. She lastly determined to meet her long-held dream of proudly owning a enterprise. If she was going to pour herself into constructing a enterprise, she figured she could as effectively achieve this round her ardour — beer. “I’m doing issues I get pleasure from and the underpinning of it’s approaching issues with a stage of respect and thoughtfulness.”

Foraging and sourcing heritage components connects Sheppard to her tradition, which she views as a approach of reclaiming sovereignty. “I grew up with these tales of the place we got here from and our foodways. I really feel lucky to have had that as a result of there’s been gaps in generations,” she says, referring to historic methods of oppression reminiscent of Indian Boarding Colleges that interfered with Native American spirituality, languages, and foodways.

“We’re reclaiming our historical past and narrative. I feel the contributions that Native folks have needed to agriculture have been erased or dismissed. It’s necessary to share that story to non-Native folks, but additionally to different Native of us,” she says. “I feel fostering that appreciation and connection to our historical past brings about more healthy Native communities.”

And not too long ago, Bow & Arrow has used its casual management function to coach and advocate. Previous to the pandemic, Sheppard seen the rise of Indigenous land acknowledgements. She noticed these hat-tips to Indigenous communities as the standard residents of U.S. lands problematic. “On the one hand, I appreciated the acknowledgement,” Sheppard remembers. “Nonetheless, folks appeared to be acknowledged up to now tense. There was a disconnect there. I needed them to acknowledge that we nonetheless exist.”

“Indigenous communities have been displaced, disrupted, interrupted, and imposed upon,” she continues. “They’ve skilled a lack of language, foodways, and kinship.” She questioned, how had been these land acknowledgements doing something to right or counteract these experiences?

On October 11, 2021, Indigenous Individuals’s Day, Bow & Arrow launched Native Land, a collaboration beer that invited breweries throughout the U.S. to make use of a offered IPA recipe for a typical mission: “to acknowledge the contributions and historical past of Native American folks in the USA,” Sheppard mentioned in a November Instagram publish. Taking part breweries might additionally use a can design template that included area for a land acknowledgement.

Three cans of beer, the can with the full label visible read “NATIVE LAND BREWED ON THE ANCESTRAL LANDS OF THE TIWA PEOPLE”

Bow & Arrow’s Native Land Beer.
Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.

Bow & Arrow launched its inaugural Native Land brew in November, additionally Native American Heritage Month. It was made on the ancestral lands of the Tiwa Individuals. Skydance Brewing in Oklahoma Metropolis adopted with a beer honoring the Wichita, Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, and Osage. Ruse Brewing in Portland, Oregon, acknowledged the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde with its Native Land brew, and Alchemist Beer in Stowe, Vermont, acknowledged the Abenaki. By the tip of the preliminary marketing campaign in March 2022, 53 breweries in 24 states and one Canadian province brewed Native Land beer.

Importantly for Sheppard, these beers didn’t simply present a written acknowledgement of the presence of native peoples. They had been automobiles for activism. Every brewery donated a portion of proceeds to a Native American-operated nonprofit. To date, between $1,400 and $9,000 per brewery has gone to organizations like Natives Open air; tribal neighborhood initiatives; and Bow & Arrow’s chosen beneficiary, First Nations Growth Institute, supporting Native American neighborhood financial improvement. The beer joined different notable charity beers reminiscent of Sierra Nevada’s Resilience IPA, which raised cash for the Camp Hearth Aid Fund.

Bow & Arrow’s reflections round land acknowledgements pushed Native Land beer to turn into extensively adopted throughout the U.S. Though the undertaking was initially slated to conclude in March, demand has already prolonged the deadline to September 2022 for taking part breweries to hitch and launch their beers.

“It’s opened folks’s eyes to historical past to allow them to respect the place they exist and whose lands they’re on,” Sheppard says. “It’s thrilling the notice that’s been created among the many brewing neighborhood and the general public.” Native Land beer has additionally been significant for the brewers themselves. Sheppard says, “It seems like we’re being seen and heard. Like we’re not being pigeonholed into one kind of individual.”

Sheppard hopes the trail Bow & Arrow is slicing by way of the brewery subject is one which extra Native-owned breweries can comply with. They’re amongst a handful of Native-owned operations within the U.S., together with Oklahoma Metropolis’s Skydance Brewing, in addition to 7 Clans Brewing in Cherokee, North Carolina, and Rincon Reservation Street Brewery, which has two California places. “Having completed what we’ve completed — in what I hope is a respectful approach of incorporating our tradition and background — I feel it’s inspiring different brewers.”

Ashley M. Biggers is an Albuquerque, New Mexico–primarily based journalist who writes about journey, delicacies, and wellness.



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