The Hilltop Ale House is changing hands, but the new owner plans on keeping everything that’s made it a neighborhood spot for nearly three decades just the same.

“It was ’93 when we opened, and it’s quite a run,” said Jeff Eagan, who opened Hilltop on Queen Anne Avenue 25 years ago. “I’ve seen a lot of changes up there on Queen Anne Hill.”

Eagan’s wife of 36 years was born in England, and the two visited her family there often in the 1980s. He said he fell in love with the pub culture there.

“I just love that feeling.  They call it the neighborhood local,” Eagan said.

He ended up working at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern in Capitol Hill, and said the owner who hired him had his own style that worked.

“Taverns back in the day were kind of groddy, and no one thought much of those, but he cleaned it up real good,” Eagan said.

When the craft beer scene began growing, Eagan took the style he’d learned at Roanoke and paired it with the pub culture in England to open the 74th Street Ale House in Greenwood in 1991. He opened Hilltop in 1993, and then the Columbia City Ale House in 2000.

“It’s sort of, you have to draw the line somewhere,” Eagan said of his decision to sell his family of alehouses. “I feel like in a way I’ve done what I can do, and now it’s a young man’s game.”

Enter 33-year-old Kael Lewis.

Lewis studied at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Arizona, and then moved to California where he worked at the James Beard Award-winning Restaurant 1833. From there he moved to New York to work in Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s flagship restaurant Jean-Georges.

Born and raised on Bainbridge Island, Lewis returned to the Pacific Northwest and took a job at the now-closed Book Bindery restaurant, where he met his wife and fellow chef, Rosie.

Lewis spent the past four years at Amazon, most recently as executive chef in the Day One building.

“When we decided to marry, that’s when I took a job at Amazon,” Lewis said. “While I was working at Amazon, I was working on what am I going to do next.”

His wife has lived in Queen Anne for the last 15 years, having bought her home from her father. Lewis moved in with her, and the two now have a young daughter.

“Hilltop was kind of like our spot to go, get food, get drinks,” said Lewis, who found out the alehouse was for sale back in October. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, we go there once a week anyway.”

“I’ve had a lot of offers on it and talked to a lot of people, and it seemed like a good fit,” Eagan said about turning over Hilltop to Lewis. “He’s interested in food, and that’s what we’ve been and always been.”

Eagan said he will help Lewis get acclimated to the business side of Hilltop. The new owner starts on Monday. Two general managers who are buying the 74th Street Ale House from him have also offered to help, he said.

“Jeff has been so great to work with through this whole process,” Lewis said.

While the new owner wants to eventually put his mark on the place, Lewis said he mostly wants Hilltop to stay the way it is and keep the regulars happy.

“We’ve always loved the feeling when we come in there,” he said. “I’m a chef at heart, so I want to eventually put a spin on the food.”

Restaurants come and go in Seattle, but Eagan has run three successfully for decades. Each of them used to be rundown taverns. Hilltop Ale House was originally Hilltop Tavern, Eagan admitting he never tried to be too clever with names.

“There wasn’t much on Queen Anne at the time up on top. Now there are a bunch of restaurants around us,” he said. “There was a need, and what we took over was an old tavern but it was closed and it was a dump. The stuff we found in there when we remodeled was amazing.”

Eagan credits the same formula for the success of all of his alehouses.

“We’ve always focused on neighborhoods, on the community,” he said. “We’ve never tried to be a destination place, we’ve never tried to be anything more than what satisfied the community.”

Lewis said Hilltop has the benefit of a longtime staff, the alehouse not suffering from the kind of turnover he’s seen in other restaurants. The head chef has been there for 15 years.

“It’s always been my dream to open my own restaurant, and this is a good way to get into that,” he said.

While Lewis doesn’t like to brag about his time at Amazon, it was on the bio Eagan shared with Hilltop staff.

“All my staff had to see was that word, Amazon, to freak out and go, ‘Oh my god, corporate,’” he said.

Lewis has been meeting with staff, and together with Eagan they’re assuring employees that there won’t be any culture shock with the changeover.

The Mezistrano family, which has owned the building where Hilltop has operated these 25 years, also needed some convincing, Eagan said, but have since approved another 10-year lease for the alehouse.

“And they come in and eat too, and they wanted to make sure the food stayed the same too,” he said.

The Columbia City Ale House had been put up for sale, but then the property was also put on the market. The new owner worked out a lease with Eagan, so he plans to keep that business for the time being.