It’s always a pleasure to sit down with Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay, owners of Bow & Arrow Brewing Co., and head brewer Ted O’Hanlan. After last summer’s piece on the barrel-aged program they were just rolling out then, I was eager to catch up on what we can look forward to in 2018. First up, Bow & Arrow turns two years old with a celebration and a first-ever bottle release this Saturday from noon to close. It’s the perfect opportunity to check out their comfortable German-style beer hall if you haven’t made the trip to their Wells Park neighborhood (608 McKnight Ave. NW) location yet.
Now a year into it, the barrel program at Bow & Arrow is impressive, especially considering the short amount of time they’ve had to build it. Sour and brett beers tend to take a steeper amount of investment in both equipment and time, and Ted and Shyla said they are committed to doing it right.
Bow & Arrow’s trajectory as a brewery shifted course last year with the release of their notable brett saison, Cosmic Arrow (7.7% ABV). Now a popular house offering, it helped establish the brewery as a local leader in barrel-aged experiments. Head brewer Ted O’Hanlan said he has perfected the recipe since its debut, and it remains an extremely drinkable, complex, dry saison. Cosmic Arrow is also a staff favorite, topping the list for both Ted and Shyla.
“2017 was the year we were able to launch our barrel program because Ted joined our team,” Shyla said. “Right now, we’re doing a lot of experimentation to see how people respond. We’re aggregating data, and learning from that and moving forward.”
Ted explained that their focus last year was experimenting with wild yeast and mixed fermentation sours. In 2017, they also rolled out their foraging program, named the Thirsty Land Foraged series. Missy said she chalked this series up as her favorite produced in 2017, especially the Navajo Tea Grisette (4.3% ABV), a light-bodied version of a saison, grounded with earthy flavors from the tea.
“I’ve had to learn a lot about ingredients that are local to the area since moving here, even though we did do some foraged ingredients at Fullsteam,” Ted said.
His culinary background and prior experience at Fullsteam Brewery in North Carolina has certainly helped him understand how these ingredients affect his brews.
Brewing wild in 2018
Both Shyla and Ted said they agree that 2017 was a year of renewal and exploration for Bow & Arrow, as they rolled out a wide variety of new styles and types of beer that defied expectations. They gathered the necessary experience over the past year and repeatedly tested it with the public, and they now know exactly where their identity as a brewery is headed. The brewery’s new tagline, “We brew Wild, Sour and Barrel-Aged Beers in the Heart of the American Southwest,” certainly speaks clearly to their path in 2018.
The big news for the first part of this year? They are making bottles of their brett and sour beers available for purchase in the taproom. These limited-release 500mL bottles will feature the Bow & Arrow iconic branding and will be available only as long as supplies last.
Ted let me taste Dark Mesa, the Belgian quad ale he was aging in red wine barrels. At 11-percent ABV, I expected a fierce alcohol aftertaste, but its dry, classic Belgian strong features do not overwhelm on the finish. Dark Mesa will delight a wide variety of craft beer drinkers with its notes of fig, dark plum, and black pepper. Ted ran it through standard fermentation with abbey yeast, then aged it in the barrels using brett yeast, which cut the sugar content, for three months. During that time, the yeast took it down to a stable gravity. The limited-edition Dark Mesa stands to be a notable achievement in Bow & Arrow’s portfolio, as it is difficult to brew a beer this big with a high ABV and have it end up so nice and dry. It will be available for purchase during the anniversary party on Saturday.
Coming soon to a tap handle near you
Last year, Ted worked his way through each of the house brews and revisited their recipes. Their popular Nomadico IPA (6.1% ABV) is their new house IPA, replacing the Hoka Hey. The Nomadico pivots toward the current trend of hazy, juicy IPAs, but doesn’t fully commit to that trend, opting for a cleaner body and finish.
Jemez Field Notes (4.5% ABV) has also gone through a bit of a transition, and the newest iteration coming soon will contain locally-sourced blue corn.
“It just felt right to incorporate blue corn into the Jemez lager because it’s local,” Ted said. “It’s a nice introduction to craft beer for those who may not have tried a lot of variety yet, because it’s low-alcohol and refreshing.”
Other house beers include the Sun Dagger Saison (6.5% ABV), their flagship farmhouse ale; the Visionland Amber (5.4% ABV), a copper-hued, mildly hoppy amber ale; and the True Aim Scotch Ale (6.3% ABV), a malty rustic ale that surprises with its smoothness.
Ted said they will continue with their Rotating Stout Series, a series of infusions that allow him to be creative and to play with ingredients that they wouldn’t normally put together.
“Ted has streamlined the recipe development process, and these stouts have been really well received in the taproom,” Shyla said. “We have a number of wholesale accounts who are eagerly anticipating the next release.”
As for the barrel-aged program, there are currently 48 barrels in full view from the taproom. Shyla said their number will potentially see an increase this year, as some of the barrels are already on their second rotations.
“We’ve put a stake in the ground for barrel-aged and barrel-fermented New Mexican beers,” Shyla said. “Ted has three different programs going — he’s aging the stouts in uncultured whiskey barrels, and then we have the bretts and the sours.”
“I believe each round of beer should match the nature of the barrels,” Ted added. “We first aged our Coyote Waits Imperial Mole Stout in whiskey barrels. Now, those same barrels are holding barleywine.”
For the barleywine fans out there, it will hit the taps in March sometime and will hover around 9-percent ABV. Ted set out to create a malt-forward beer on the lower end of the bitterness spectrum, and is anticipating tannin and char flavors from the wood. Also in the works is a brett pale ale and a brett sour red, as well as a variation of Cosmic Arrow that was brewed with 62 pounds of their own peaches from their tree on site. And finally, their answer to a sudden inspiration received is a German chocolate cake stout as part of their rotating stout series.
“I’m most excited about the barrel-aged program,” Ted said. “I love the fast sours, but I love the complexity of the barrel-aging process with long-term souring even more. We are fully committed to it.”
Culture and community in 2018
In the last quarter of 2017, Bow & Arrow increased its distribution to partners in Santa Fe and around town. Now, you can find new tap handles at Fire & Hops and Piñon Pub (Whole Foods) in Santa Fe, as well as El Pinto and Sadie’s in Albuquerque. The staff will continue to show up at beer festivals to test their experimental brews alongside their tried-and-true favorites.
Shyla said they will continue to focus on supporting specific nonprofits in 2018. They raised money for Dig Deep’s water filtration project for a Navajo special-needs school last April, and also hosted a Culture Crush week where they celebrated indigenous culture during the Gathering of Nations. The brewery hosted a popup that featured local indigenous artists, an Indian taco popup, and also a five-course paired beer dinner during Culture Crush week.
“We also hosted a Diversity in the Outdoors event in partnership with REI, where a panel of speakers discussed making the outdoors more accessible to people of all backgrounds, as well as protection of sacred places,” Missy said. “We look forward to doing more events like this, because it highlights beer’s ability to build community.”
More beer dinners are planned for 2018. Keep an eye on the Bow & Arrow social media pages and website for event details as they are announced. This is also where the staff will announce what beers become available from their bottle program and, of course, what’s currently on tap. Don’t forget to stop in on Saturday from noon onward to experience the fruits of their cutting-edge barrel-aged program for yourself.