Bias Brewing, Kalispell

Story & photography by Lizo Vizzutti

Five years ago, Adam Roberston converted an entire bedroom of his home into a “brewery” affectionately referred to by friends as BrewHaus 651.

The spilling of a five-gallon carboy of red wine was the catalyst to remove the carpet. The project snowballed from there.

“We ran water and power lines, tiled floors and walls, and even installed a steam vent hood that exhausted out through the wall of the house,” said Amanda Robertson. “Within just a few months of knowing each other, I was at his house starting on what would have been the very first beer-related project that we undertook together.”

Now married, the Robertsons are co-owners of Bias Brewing, a seven-barrel brewery that opened in June 2018 in downtown Kalispell with Adam as brewmaster.

The Loopback Tea Pale Ale is a hop and malt-balanced pale ale with a tea forward flavor that comes at the back of the taste.

“The tea is unexpected in a beer,” Adam said. “But the flavors pair well and create an awesome combination. There’s a reason it’s our number one beer, and it’s because it’s unlike any beer that most people have tried.”

A high-quality, loose Earl Grey tealeaf is added to the boil, imparting its specific rich, earthy qualities to the wort.

Earl Grey is a black tea blend flavored with the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot variety of orange. The bergamot oil imparts a sweet, light orange peel presence and a floral note to the tea — and, subsequently, the beer.

“Proportion and timing are key, since both the tea and the citrus can take a turn towards being bitter if steeped too long, but won’t impart an impactful flavor if not given enough time,” said Amanda.

The Earl Grey works in tandem with the pine and citrus notes of the Centennial hops and the tropical fruit of the Citra hops, while being supported on a tasty, light malt backbone.

The Robertsons’ backgrounds in technology, electrical engineering, programming and automation are expressed in every corner of the brewery. The brew system Adam built is entirely electric, utilizing stainless-steel heating elements and electricity to heat and hold temperatures through the brewing cycle.

The brewery name Bias is a reference to electrical circuitry, in which to “bias a circuit” is to apply enough energy that current begins to flow. It essentially is the electrical equivalent of overcoming inertia.

“This name was particularly symbolic for us because it harkens back to the many years that Adam and I have known each other where we’ve talked casually about opening a brewery together,” Amanda said. “At some point, we talked about it long enough, started turning words into actions, and we overcame our inertia.”

Loopback references the IT/network engineering term that is generally used to reference the “home” node in a network.

“In IT speak, loopback basically means yourself or home,” said Adam.

Home: where Adam was able to hone his brewing skills in his makeshift “nano brewery.” Home: where Adam first built and programmed the brewery control panel that became the blueprint for the full-scale production facility.

For Amanda and Adam, they see the new brewery and tasting room as an extension of their home.

“And hopefully the homes of our staff who now feel like family, as well as our customers,” said Amanda. “The word Loopback is a tribute to making this place feel like home.”

“On a personal level,” she said, “the Loopback does have substantial nostalgic effect for us. It was the first beer that Adam ever let me try from his six-tap kegerator of homebrew.”

Loopback TPA is a continual, circular thread woven into the narrative of their startup process, always pointing home.

“There were a lot of beers invented at BrewHaus 651, but the tea pale ale was always a main character in the story,” Amanda said.

Style American Pale Ale
IBU 32.5
ABV 6.6%
Malts Pale
Hops Centennial, Citra
Yeast Ale
Appearance Hazy, golden, woody amber
Description A hop and malt balanced pale ale with a full mouth feel and a rich, earthy tea forward flavor that comes on later in the sip with subtle hints of citrus and hops
Where to get it You can find the Loopback Tea Pale Ale on tap at Bias Brewing, located at 409 1st Ave. E in Kalispell. For more information, email Bias at info@biasbrewing.com or call (406)  730-3020.

Pub Talk

Gabe Mariman, director of business development at Bias, remembers the early days of Adam’s singular home brewing system, most notably Adam’s use of technology to gather information.

Mariman said individual pint glasses were tagged with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Each time a beer was poured, information on style, frequency and the drinker — even a fun photo was snapped — would be captured from the RFID. Using software that Adam designed, all of this information could be correlated, compiled and tracked.

Bias continues emphasizing the importance of measuring, monitoring and controlling, and Adam can operate the entire brew system from his cell phone on software that he developed himself. “(Bias) was a home-brewing-gone-wild experiment that was years in the making,” Mariman said.

Beer was historically the drink of choice for the pre-Industrial Revolution working class. It was high in calories, often more potable than the available water and considered mildly medicinal — three important factors for working long days in the fields.

As the introduction of machinery transformed production in European factories, workers gave up the plow for the factory, and afternoon breaks to imbibe alcohol slowed production and could be dangerous.

Serving tea — sweetened with sugar — provided workers with a dose of caffeine and calories to keep them productive through the day without having leave the factory floor.

→  Between WWI and WWII in the United Kingdom, Earl Grey was used as a drink mixer, usually with gin. The gin and Earl Grey drink was called a Moseley Tea Service, named after the wealthy suburb of Birmingham where J. R. R. Tolkien was born.

MARQUEE PHOTO: Gabe Mariman, director of business development for Bias Brewing, is seen at the bar of the new brewery in downtown Kalispell.