Fans of the distinctive, funky flavor characterized by brett beers will not have to venture far from home or wait for seasonal releases to get their fill. And, it seems that this often-experimental style may have found a perfect home base at Bow & Arrow Brewing. Cosmic Arrow, a saison and the first in their series of brett beers, debuts today (Friday) at a special tapping that begins at 4 p.m. The brewery is located off 6th Street and McKnight Avenue, just in case you still have not made it over there.
Head brewer Ted O’Hanlan set a beautiful tulip glass of Cosmic Arrow before me for tasting. The color brought muddled lemons to mind, and the beer presented itself as a classic saison on the nose. At first sip, it released fruity notes and an extremely mild tartness. The Cosmic Arrow (7.1% ABV; 27 IBU) is a very dry, very sessionable saison with only minor hints of bitterness or sweetness and light effervescence. Aged in red zinfandel barrels for three months, the beer retained traces of oak that didn’t overpower the smoothness.
The second beer that will be released today is the excellent Hoodoo Monster Imperial American Red (9.3% ABV; 50 IBU). Named for the rock spires that decorate the southwest (and including “monster” because of the ABV), this beer honestly surprised me with its sophistication. I expected something much sharper, likely due to the imperial in the name, and its deep red-brown color didn’t lead me to believe otherwise. However, I found a classic American hop profile layered over a rich caramel flavor. For such a big beer, the Hoodoo Monster is incredibly smooth and (dangerously) drinkable.
How they got here
When I sat down with Bow & Arrow owner Shyla Sheppard at the beginning of the year, she mentioned the brewery would be expanding the barrel-aged program they launched in 2016 with the assistance of the new head brewer they were bringing on in the spring (Ted). Ted and Shyla share a palpable excitement about these brews, and it’s easy to see that the match — both in terms of style and experimentation — was a good one.
Though he recently hailed from Black Tooth Brewing Company in tiny Sheridan, Wyoming, it’s worth noting that Ted used to spend summers as a child in Albuquerque because his mother grew up here. Ted was eager to join Bow & Arrow as head brewer earlier this year to put his experience and creativity to work. Before Black Tooth, Ted entered the industry at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, N.C., where he worked with barrel-aged beers. Shyla said that Ted has, in addition to brewing, a culinary background.
“I think that lends a unique and interesting perspective to the way he approaches developing new beers and pushing the envelope with unusual ingredients,” she said.
“It takes a long time to brew brett beers, but it’s so expressive and it makes beer really unique,” Ted said. “It’s really taken off in other parts of the country, and it seems there are one or two breweries per state that are taking on this challenge. I like the complexity, and the challenge of working with it, because you have to wait.”
His willingness to experiment is an ideal complement to Shyla’s vision of the Bow & Arrow of the future. The brewery is moving towards mixed fermentation beers overall, and will explore American wild brett style, traditional sour, kettle sour and barrel sour beers. The popular El Breakfast stout is currently barrel-aging as an imperial in rye whiskey barrels (Ted sources these barrels directly from Wyoming Whiskey, as his friend is the head distiller there), with an upcoming October release date. Four other brews hitting the barrels this month include a second round of Cosmic Arrow, an American brett pale ale in a neutral oak barrel, a quad sitting on brett in more Sheehan barrels, as well as another brett sour beer that will turn more quickly than Cosmic Arrow. They are experimenting with a method to turn a mixed culture sour beer in months rather than years.
What’s tapping next
Ted’s past experience at Fullsteam in their plow-to-pint and foraged beer programs intersects nicely with Shyla’s original vision for Bow & Arrow. The brewery was created to celebrate community, cultural heritage, and a rich appreciation for the land. Shyla was born and raised on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, and is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes. Her partner and co-owner, Missy Begay, was raised on the Navajo Nation. Ted’s experience with foraged beer — a community affair where community foragers were paid market price for ingredients — only underscores the vision Shyla and Missy said they share for Bow & Arrow.
This vision of celebrating what the land has to give is reflected in the next beer in their Way Out West kettle sour lineup. The first release was a dry-hopped farmhouse ale, and the second (Way Out West-Sumac) will be a Berliner Weisse brewed with locally sourced sumac berries. Sumac, indigenous to New Mexico, lends a crisp, tart, citrus taste, and Shyla attributes a long history of the indigenous people making pudding and a lemonade-type drink with the berries. The distinct aroma has transferred to the beer with a chile powder effect on the nose at first. However, when tasting it, Way Out West-Sumac (4.1% ABV; 7 IBU) is an exceptionally smooth summertime brew. At that low alcohol level, it should top your list of summer session beers.
Also, look for Bow & Arrow’s second release in their rotating stout series to be released shortly.
Where they’re headed
From their earliest conversations, a willingness to push the envelope where brett was concerned united Ted and Shyla. Now, 36 barrels sit within full view of the beer hall behind the glass that separates it from the brewing area. Shyla just installed a sliding barn door for easy access to the barrels. Barrels holding sours are tucked under the stairs in the beer hall. It’s clear that the barrel-aged program is going to be a defining factor for the brewery in years to come.
Beyond what’s happening in the brewery and beer hall, Shyla said they are participating in more tap takeovers, and is working on increasing their distribution. Having launched with a 15-barrel system right away, they have room to grow without having to expand the brewery immediately. Bow & Arrow currently has taps at Slate Street, both Slice Parlor locations, Matanza Beer Kitchen, Pueblo Harvest Café, and Monk’s Corner Taproom. More beer pairing and collaborative dinners are in the works.
“This was a dream for a long time,” Shyla said.
After moving to New Mexico from the Bay Area, she left a career in social impact investing to launch Bow & Arrow with her partner, Missy, a physician. A hobbyist home brewer, she did the research necessary to decide that designing, building, and opening a brewery was indeed a viable business venture. She took the leap, and in their first year, they landed awards and accolades from the commercial construction industry to being named a Local Favorite by New Mexico Magazine.
The bones of the brewery are made for fostering community. Giant tables in the expansive beer hall give way to cozy nooks and large classroom-style spaces upstairs that can be rented for group events. Shyla’s passion for supporting local entrepreneurship is rooted in this brewery, and she actively seeks opportunities to help others on their business journeys.
“Any startup will consume your life, and at the end of the day it has to be worth it,” Shyla said. “I’m really pleased with where we are today, and looking forward to where we’re headed.”
If Cosmic Arrow is any indication of where Ted’s skilled hand will help lead Shyla’s vision, it looks like this collaboration will be a resounding success.