Luke Steadman, 28, the Head Brewer at Bow and Arrow Brewing Co., oozes inspiration. It takes only a few sips of any beer at Bow and Arrow to get a glimpse of the passion that goes into each pint. His love for beer, brewing, and quality ingredients is the baseline for each of his unique recipes. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit (and by sit I mean stand) and chat with him about how he got into brewing, how he got to where he was today, and what sets him apart.
Hops & Husk: How did you end up as the head brewer at Bow and Arrow?
Luke Steadman: I’ve honestly had a hilarious journey. My dad was really into craft beer, and he’d always have weird and unique beers that he would trade with buddies, so I’ve always kind of known about the craft beer scene. I went to the Air Force Academy playing soccer, but blew out my ACL, and at the time, a family friend, Brian Sprague, was in the midst of converting a dairy barn into a brewery, which is now Sprague Farm & Brew Works in Pennsylvania. I was his apprentice basically, and I learned a ton from him. You really worked hard for a pint of beer there, because we grew the hops and barley at the farm there, everything was gravity fed, and cask conditioned, that kind of thing.
In 2012 I went to Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, which had awesome faculty, and was an amazing experience for me. I went back to Pennsylvania after that, and helped some breweries set up their operations, mostly as a consultant, because the craft brewery scene was just exploding at the time. From there I went and did some brewing with a company called Brew Gentlemen in Pittsburgh. I traveled to Minnesota and did some brewing there, but knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be longterm. I heard of Bow and Arrow, I applied, and they seemed to really like me and I liked them so here I am!
H&H: Is there anything you thought you might end up doing besides brewing?
LS: Uh… Not really! The industry is still so young and fortunately I’ve been in it for almost a decade now which is just crazy. I got into it when I was 19, and this fit [Bow and Arrow] has been really nice, the facility is awesome, Shyla [B&A owner] is great, and they really let me do my thing, which is nice. I’m in a great spot now where I have a ton of creative freedom with the beer, and this first year is just a great time for me to try new things and really push myself creatively.
H&H: Why did you choose Siebel for your formal brewing education?
LS: I had been brewing for 5 years leading up to me going to Siebel, but in a real farm setting, and here it’s a lot more mechanical, there’s the Vorlauf, and just so many more pieces than were there [Sprague Farms], so for me going to Siebel filled in a lot of the gaps, like the science background, and some of the more mechanical stuff. But still, my focus is on the raw ingredients, which is why I always start out the Brew Scholars tour with a presentation of the raw ingredients. Sometimes people just think in numbers and, and every once in a while you have to pull yourself out of that black and white, and live in the grey, which is really what brewing is. You can brew a technically perfect beer, but I may still wanna pour it down the drain. The same things happen with recipes. You shouldn’t be copying recipes you should be creating recipes. I always try and tell the guys working with me, you need to be able to create and not just produce.
H&H: The first thing I noticed about the beers when I first tried them was how clean and balanced they are, especially the IPA, how do you manage that in such a hop crazed town like Albuquerque?
LS: Yeah, see my entire focus is a balanced beer. I like to take a style and add a twist to it. We don’t want to do anything that’s offensive though, we just want to do something that’s adventurous. Like, we want to take a style, add our own flair, step aside a little bit, but we don’t wanna push ourselves off the cliff, because there really is a fine line between adventurous, and just straight up offensive. It’s hints, it’s notes, it’s a splash of this a splash of that, basically we’re saying “How can we make this ours?” Honestly, the best book, for anyone trying to get into craft brewing is Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher. That’s my bible here. I’m also obsessed with anything culinary. I talk with culinary people all the time asking, “What’s a weird new flavor you’re working with?” I’m always looking for new stuff to add to our brews. I don’t want you to come here and have the same three beers you can get everywhere else… But it still has to be drinkable! Because you know, some people are coming here to have a liquid vacation, so you need to give it to them!
H&H: The inspiration and creativity that you have comes through really well in your beers here. How do you manage that?
LS: Well, you know, I think a lot of that comes from my parents. They were both artists, my dad was a water color artist and my mom was a photographer, so I thought everyone’s parents just painted, and drew and took photographs, and farmed, and hunted and fished, so that was the world I grew up in. As a kid that’s all you know. So for me, my parents always told me, if you can do something creative and make enough money to be comfortable, then that’s the best balance you can have. Because at the end of the day you look out, and see all these people enjoying something that you created and it’s a great feeling, you’re providing a place the community can gather and what’s better than that?
H&H: That’s the dream! Well thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you and take a look back here at the brewery set up.
If you can’t tell by now, Luke is a brewer who loves what he does, and cares deeply about the community of beer drinkers that come together to enjoy his beers. His ability to craft a clean, balanced and delicious brew is apparent in the many beers available at Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. He’s always available to have a chat and genuinely enjoys talking with the community and especially geeking out about anything beer related! Stop by and get lost in a 16 oz. liquid vacation at the end of a hot Albuquerque summer day.