Ellen Kelly and
Owners of the Noble Fir
5316 Ballard Ave NW, 420-7425
So you're the owners of the Noble Fir, Ballard's new wilderness-themed bar. What made you choose opening a bar as a way of expressing your love of hiking?
EK: It's more about sharing our love of the wilderness than expressing it. We used to hike and go for beer afterward. It's a good way of sharing the things we love: beer, wine, cider, and hiking.
Your "Maps and Taps" happy hour is designed to facilitate hiking trip planning. Besides providing thrifty beer, how does the bar assist?
EK: It's useful to have several different descriptions of the same hike, and we have over 200 laminated maps and 300 hiking books. We see them utilized every day. People come in and plan hikes with their friends while enjoying a beer or a glass of wine.
When I order a pint and get a stupid tiny plastic cup, I feel like punching someone. When I get a 20-ounce imperial pint, like you have here, I feel like making out with everyone. Which one of you do I have to thank for this choice of glassware?
RW: We make all the decisions about the bar together, based on what we like as bar-goers. Imperial pints make it easier to smell the beer, which is important. We also don't serve hot food because cooking smells can overpower the smell of the beer.
Rick, you used to work at REI—are there any skills you learned at your previous job that are particularly applicable to running a bar?
RW: I learned how to stay on my feet for 10 hours and I furthered my knowledge of the outdoors. My favorite thing about working at REI was exchanging stories about hiking with customers.
Speaking of which, what's your next hiking destination?
EK: When is a better question. We're here every day right now. But we knew we'd be sacrificing this year to get the bar running.