Hungry for Adventure: Beer Bar Owners Launch The Sixgill


Finding success despite adversity is all part of a great adventure, and it happens to be the story behind our restaurant partners Ellen Kelly and Rick Weersing. During the economic downturn in 2009, the duo – a former attorney and an REI employee, respectively – found themselves jobless. Then along came their “aha moment.”

“We used to go hiking all the time and talk about what our bar would be like and what kind of beer we would have on tap,” remembers Ellen. “And then the opportunity presented itself. We just thought, Let’s do it!”

That initial spark propelled them to launch The Noble Fir in Ballard. Part base camp, part beer bar, “The Fir” opened in 2010 and seemingly had an instant following despite its owners admitted inexperience.

“There are lots of great beer bars in Seattle, but we wanted to distinguish ourselves,” says Ellen. So, they set about creating a backpackers’ haven with photographs from their trips adorning the walls and a small library of guidebooks – 200 of which came from their own collection – tucked in a corner.

“I am amazed at how much people utilize our maps and books! People come in during the week and plan trips for the weekend and they’ll ask for recommendations. Then they’ll come back on Sunday evening and talk about it with us.”

And what hikers’ refuge would be complete without good beer and snacks? The bar offers an irresistible assortment of meats, cheeses, and veggies with Macrina Baguette to complement their 18 rotating taps. Most evenings The Fir is bustling with groups lined along the floor-to-ceiling windows, chatting over plates of triple crème with pate, dishes of baguette, and imperial pints of craft beer.

It wasn’t long before Rick and Ellen were ready for a new adventure, though. With the success of The Noble Fir as their map, they decided to tackle the restaurant business, opening The Sixgill in Fremont last April. The restaurant is already creating a buzz with Eric Stover, a veteran of the Tom Douglas empire, heading up The Sixgill kitchen. Once a regular at The Fir, Eric thoughtfully designs the menu around the 36 beers on tap, incorporating seasonal produce, seafood, and Macrina products throughout.

“The response has been great. People expected we’d have great beer because of The Fir, but we’ve heard lots of people say things like, ‘Wow! The food is great!’ as they’re leaving the restaurant.”

So, what’s the one menu item Ellen can’t live without?

“There is all of this fish in Seattle, but you can’t find a fish sandwich anywhere that’s not fried. When we hired Eric, I said, ‘You can do whatever you want with the menu, but there has to be a fish sandwich.’ So, the Blacked Cod Club is my favorite thing.”