Delayed, but not prevented: Rambler Taproom will open later this month

Venture is offshoot of Albuquerque's Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Rambler Taproom is located at 5100 E. Main St., Suite 109, in the GoTo Plaza in Farmington.
  • It will be open from 1 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
  • Visit ramblertaproom on Facebook for more information.

FARMINGTON — When the owners of Albuquerque's Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. announced plans in late 2019 to open a taproom in Farmington, they had no way of knowing their plan would run headlong into the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those challenges may have delayed the opening of the Rambler Taproom, but they have not prevented it. Bow & Arrow CEO and president Shyla Sheppard said the company's new Farmington venture finally will open later this month in its location in the GoTo Plaza at 5100 E. Main St., Suite 109.

"I held on to it this whole time," Sheppard said of her goal of opening the taproom here. "It was a challenge, and we had to dip into our capital for Farmington to buy a canning line. That was a difficult decision, but we didn't have packaging before that. The silver lining is, we've been able to move forward in Farmington and also offer package sales to go."

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Shyla Sheppard, president and CEO of the Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. of Albuquerque, stands behind the bar of the company's newest venture, the Rambler Taproom in Farmington.

Sheppard and her partner, Missy Begay, are the first Native women in America to own and operate their own brewery. Their original plan was to open the Rambler Taproom in the spring of 2020, but when the pandemic forced them to temporarily shutter their brewery in Albuquerque, Sheppard acknowledged their plan to start a satellite operation was jeopardized.

"I was committed to making this happen, but I didn't know how we were going to figure it out," she said. "It's been really uplifting to meet people here and hear the chatter about us opening."

Sheppard said the nature of the brewpub industry made it especially susceptible to the hardships posed by the pandemic shutdown of so many businesses. Most brewpubs are designed as community gathering spots where their products are consumed on site. But when the pandemic came along, they could only sell their beverages for off-premises consumption.

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Shyla Sheppard says the new Rambler Taproom in Farmington is an example of how she wants quality to resonate through everything her Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. in Albuquerque does.

Breweries that did not already have a canning operation were restricted to selling their beer in growlers, and Sheppard said that was not a feasible option for doing the kind of volume Bow & Arrow needed to stay in business.

"We had beer sitting in tanks and no way to move it," she said. "We were so dependent on people coming in and feeling that sense of community. One growler at a time didn't work for us."

Sheppard said she and Begay decided to take some of the cash they had set aside to open the Rambler Taproom and devote it to purchasing and setting up a canning line that would make it much more convenient for them to sell their beer on a to-go basis.

That turned out to be a wise decision, she said, noting that the Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. location in Albuquerque did not reopen to on-site consumption until February. The package sales allowed the company to survive until normal operations could resume.

The opening of the Rambler Taproom was put on the back burner while the canning operation was initiated. But Sheppard and Begay quickly turned their attention back to Farmington this year, and now they are almost ready to raise the curtain on their new location.

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Shyla Shepard says she expects the Rambler Taproom in Farmington's GoTo Plaza to open sometime in August.

"Despite the last year being as challenging as it was, I'm more excited than ever about being here," Sheppard said.

The Rambler Taproom will not feature beer brewed on site, but the 1,200-square-foot operation will offer 10 varieties of Bow & Arrow products on tap, in addition to bottled offerings ranging from sparkling wine and cocktails to nonalcoholic sparking water.

The taproom will offer seating capacity for approximately 30 people between its large bar, and tables and chairs. The room is bright and airy, evoking what Sheppard described as a modern, organic farmhouse atmosphere. It is highlighted by a custom neon sign behind the bar, high ceilings, wooden wine barrels and white wood paneling that Sheppard said create a sense of warmth and help the cozy space feel bigger than it is.

"I whitewashed it myself," she said, smiling. "I'm happy with how it turned out. We want quality to resonate through everything we do."

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The Rambler — named for the spirit of adventure Sheppard and Begay believe the Four Corners area inspires — will not serve food, but customers are welcome to bring in their own food. Sheppard said the taproom will offer acoustic live music on an occasional basis, but its main focus will be on screening adventure and nature videos, and relying on a sound system that carries a carefully curated music playlist.

The Rambler Taproom will employ a staff of five to eight people, and positions are being filled now. It will be open from 1 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday initially, Sheppard said, although its hours of operation will increase as time goes by.

"We're just learning and assessing and staffing up," she said. "Eventually, we'll expand to seven days a week."

Visit ramblertaproom on Facebook for more information.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.