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Adjusting to change: Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. finds success in canning line

Denim Tux, an American pilsner, is one of the first beers in Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.’s new canning line. (Courtesy of Don James)

Timing is everything, and Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.’s new canning line could not have come at a better time.

The new line has been so successful that one of its first beers canned, Strawberry Amigo, is already sold out at the brewery. But patrons who did not get their hands on the fruited sour need not fret; there are plans to can the popular offering again. Denim Tux, an American pilsner made with New Mexico blue corn, is still available in 16-ounce cans and four-packs. But this is only the tip of the iceberg for the canning line. A new hazy IPA called Scenic West will be next to roll off the canning line, as well as Desert Water, a hard sparkling water, that is undergoing some “fine-tuning.”

“We’re just kind of fine-tuning the recipe a little bit before we do that, and that will have a series of different flavors,” said Shyla Sheppard, founder and CEO of Bow & Arrow Brewing. “We continue to brew it. We’re working on the recipe, so initially, we’re incorporating key lime juice. It was a little more subtle than what we we’re going for in the first batch. It comes down to preference. I like the first batch, and other people were, like, ‘Well, we felt like it was underwhelming – we want a bigger punch of key lime’ and then we switched to key lime puree and doubled the amount, and then so this last batch was very key lime-forward, and it kind of had a tartness and it was super-refreshing. So this next batch we do, we’ll dial that back a little bit on the key lime puree, but it will still be really bright and refreshing.”

Bow & Arrow recently released a hazy IPA named Electric Desert.

“We’re really excited about that, and the hazy that it’s following went really fast, so we know we’re on the right track with our hazy game,” Sheppard said. “And then we actually bottled the first batch in 375-milliliter bottles from our oak foeder, which we got a year ago, and so it’s been building up that house culture and it’s really a beautiful beer. So we will take some of that and bottle that straight as is, and then we peeled off a couple barrels separately into two wine barrels where we’re transferring foeder beer and then infusing one barrel with Navajo tea and the other in some sumac berries, again so just really focusing on highlighting some of the local indigenous ingredients in that series too.”

Sheppard is still working on the name for the foeder series but is “excited” about the direction it’s taken because it’s been a whole year in the making.

The focus on the canning line has put some plans on hold.

“We invested in this canning line, and we had a feeling that our beers were popular enough, in demand, to justify it, and we blew through basically the first batches in less than a week which was really encouraging,” Sheppard said. “I am super-proud of that cool effort for the canning line. It’s something that we always wanted to do at some point, but just with the turn of events with COVID, starting back in March, I’ve had to rethink our strategy.”

One of the plans that had to be put on hold was Bow & Arrow’s Farmington taproom. Mostly everything is in place for the taproom to open, including its liquor license, lease and building permit.

“A few months back, I had to redirect and kind of pivot some of our capital to pursue the canning line, because we were, like, ‘Well, the canning line will allow us more flexibility. If there are continued necessary restrictions, at least we can still get product into customers’ hands,’ ” Sheppard said.

The only thing missing at the Farmington location is a patio. Under the latest health order issued by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, restaurants and breweries can no longer offer dine-in service and are limited to patio service at 50% capacity. The silver lining is that Bow & Arrow’s Albuquerque location recently received approval to expand its patio area.

“The patio is so great for us because, you know, we’ve just been looking at the studies, and even when the governor allowed us to open the indoor taproom, we decided not to,” Sheppard said. “So we’re only operating on the patio. So for us, the change doesn’t affect our current operations, but it absolutely is saving us to have this patio expansion approved. In addition to our on-site patio, which is kind of small by most patio standards, so it was good to add, I think we added about nine beer garden tables that are even more than 6 feet apart and just all open air.”

Patrons who prefer to grab Bow & Arrow beer to go are encouraged to use the brewery’s online ordering system at Some Bow & Arrow offerings also can be found at retailers, including Whole Foods, Kelly Liquors, and Jubilation Wine and Spirits.

“We will fulfill walk-ups, but we do encourage people, if they know ahead of time, to order and pay online,” Sheppard said.” It just encourages that contactless transaction, and it helps us manage filling crowlers, because most of the orders, we just rolled out our first two beers in cans, but other than that it’s filling individual crowler cans, so when lots of orders come in, it’s easier for us just to prioritize them as they come in.”

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