Long-time brewpub Big E Ales will be closing its doors for good on Saturday, Feb. 6.
Big E has called a small industrial park at 5030 208th St. S.W. in Lynnwood home since owner and operator Rick Ellersick first opened for business in 2005, after previously starting out in his garage.
Ellersick said the brewpub, which had served as a family-friendly gathering place particularly for both Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace residents was closing due to the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s just been such a hard year, it’s a numbers thing,” he said.
He plans on keeping the kitchen closed during the last day of business — Saturday from noon-6 p.m. — so that he and his staff can instead focus on visiting with customers, sharing memories and thanking people for all of their love and support over the past 16 years. However, Big E Ales will still be pouring pints and filling growlers and to-go cans all day until closing time.
Business has been busy during the final week, with Ellersick reporting he has filled 3,000 cans for regular customers to pick up, since they wanted to stock up on his offerings while they still can. And not all of that has been beer. “Actually, more people are worried about not being able to get the root beer and really freaking out,” he said. “People are ordering two to four cases at a time.”
Big E Ales spent its first seven years of existence in Ellersick’s attached garage. It was considered groundbreaking at the time as the first commercially licensed microbrewery in Washington state with a setup like that. He said that when he started the business, with very little money, there were only 80 microbreweries total in the state. Now there are over 400.
It was also a family-run business. Each of Ellersick’s four sons worked there at some point, his wife handled the bookkeeping and even his dad would occasionally help in the kitchen.
He said that when his mom first heard about his concept for the business, she thought the idea was terrible because she associated beer with bars and drunken behavior. Ellersick assured her Big E Ales wouldn’t be like that, and he recalled that her tune changed after it opened. When she saw what he’d actually built, Ellersick said, his mother’s response was, “I’m so proud of you, and your place isn’t a bar. The people that come in there are awesome, it’s a family place, it’s a community meeting place and you’ve used it to do so much good and that’s why people love you and the place.”
Ellersick has many ties to the community, having lived in Mountlake Terrace for the past 38 years and raising his family there. He contributed his time coaching baseball, football and basketball; hosting gatherings for and sponsoring various Mountlake Terrace Youth Athletic Association (MTYAA) teams, and supporting MLT’s annual Tour de Terrace, the Easter Egg Hunt and local Young Life. Big E Ales also ran the beer garden at Tour de Terrace for almost two decades.
“It wasn’t just a business, but it was kind of a tool to help the community and this was like a big community meeting place,” he said. “I loved raising my family in Mountlake Terrace and all of the people, it was really good to my family.”
Ellersick said that many of his customers who reached out had been quite emotional when they heard about the impending closure because of their own personal connections to Big E’s. During its existence, the brewpub has hosted several wedding receptions, celebrations of life, birthdays, anniversaries and community fundraisers. In addition, people who first met there and later got married would often bring their kids in because it was known as a neighborhood family place, he said.
He became visibly emotional while describing memories of the people he met and also having staff, besides his own family, that he came to regard in the same way. “I’ve had a couple, that they said, ‘You know you’re more of a dad to me than my dad,’” he said.
Ellersick also said he was touched when other local breweries recently reached out to him to express their support and condolences for “losing your baby and your dream.”
He said that he’s received various offers for the business, some of which could possibly involve his efforts and/or recipes. “Any business is your dream, but having a brewery is a special dream and it’s really hard and it takes certain people to be able to do that,” he said. Ellersick said he’ll have to consider those propositions sometime after this week, because he’s been much too busy saying goodbye to people and filling thousands of cans containing his beers and root beer. He reported selling nine cases of the root beer just over the course of one five-hour evening shift.
More than anything, though, Ellersick will miss the personal connections he made. “It hasn’t been easy at times and it’s a lot of work — anyone that has a business knows that. But it’s been awesome and the biggest thing I’m going to miss is seeing people on a regular basis,” he said.
— Story and photos by Nathan Blackwell