It is not often a female, Native American, New Mexico brewery owner gets invited to the Smithsonian.
At a craft brewers conference last year in Nashville, Tenn., Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.'s owner and chief executive officer, Shyla Sheppard, caught the attention of Theresa McCulla, the historian of the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. Sheppard has now been invited to participate in Last Call on Saturday, Nov. 3. The event is part of the Smithsonian's Food History Weekend at the National Museum of American History.
"It's this food weekend highlighting agriculture and food throughout the United States, and they were looking for four breweries, and we were one of the four," Sheppard said. "I was taken aback because it's such an honor to be at that level."
Also on the panel are New Glarus Brewing Co. of Wisconsin, Scratch Brewing Co. of Illinois and Cajun Fire Brewing Co. of Louisiana. Representatives from each brewery will discuss where they are located and the history of the area and give background on their brewery. Bow & Arrow head brewer Ted O'Hanlan also will be at the event discussing the brewing process earlier in the day.
"From the beginning, we wanted to really highlight this special place in the Southwest and the land and the unique indigenous ingredients and how we've even incorporated that into our brand and beers and now that we have packaged product, into our labels, and that sort of careful balance we strike and wanting it to be kind of cool but also not kitschy," Sheppard said. "… Even talk about how fermentation has been around with indigenous people across the Americas since before the Europeans. … I think it's important to remind people that fermentation has been very present here, so we're kind of taking it to this next level and making it contemporary but still drawing from what's already been here."
Bow & Arrow also will be pouring its Denim Tux blue corn lager and its Dream Mesa traditional sour. The sour has not been released but will soon be available on tap and in bottles at the brewery, which has plans to greatly expand its traditional sour program.
"It's our first traditional sour, which is a huge deal, because these traditional sour beers take over a year," Sheppard said of Dream Mesa. "It's a huge time commitment, investment. We took that and infused it with Navajo tea that we foraged this season, so it will have that regional, very location-specific aspect to that beer, which is really exciting."
Sheppard has extended an invitation to McCulla to visit New Mexico and learn more about its diverse brewery scene.
"I just wanted her to know, hey, some really cool things are happening in New Mexico that I think she would appreciate, the things happening around diversity, around women in beer, people of color in beer," Sheppard said. "… If you're looking to see who is doing some things right, you know, come see what we're doing in New Mexico. … It is unusual because there still isn't a lot of diversity in craft beer from like a owner, operator, higher-level brewer level and it's not something I spent a long time thinking about but since it's become more of a conversation within the brewing industry, it's something I've been paying more attention to."