WILLS: Modern microbrewery in the Mile-Ex
Founded by cousins Alexander and Ethan Wills (former co-owner of Lawrence, Larrys and Boucherie Lawrence), WILLS began brewing beer in July 2023 in the Mile-Ex neighbourhood of Montreal. Nestled in the former premises of Alexandraplatz Bar and Brasserie Du Vieux Montréal, WILLS is a multi-purpose space, combining the functions of brewery, bar, and event venue.
The two cousins had long dreamed of founding a microbrewery, of creating a long-term project together. Ethan was co-owner of the restaurant Lawrence, on St-Laurent, while Alex worked in the oil industry. “We have really complementary talents,” says Ethan. “I’m more of a creative type, whereas Alex is more practical and rational. There are surprisingly a lot of similarities between beer and fossil fuels: they’re fluids that go through tubes into tanks,” he jokes.
Beer, wine, cocktails, and food
WILLS head brewer Ryan Lewell has a degree in brewing operations management and honed his skills working as head brewer and production manager at Brewskey.
“Our mission is to produce balanced beers that are easy to drink. Our products can appeal to the general public as well as the discerning connoisseur,” explains Ellen Eamon, managing director of WILLS.
WILLS products are available on site (in the boutique and bar), as well as in restaurants across the province and in specialty dépanneurs and shops.
In addition to a variety of beers, WILLS offers a superb selection of wines and cocktails, accompanied by delicious small dishes to share. “Our menu is specially designed to complement the beer experience. Our cuisine is delicate, rich and flavoursome. Our chef, Julieta Filippo, excels in the art of creating dishes that can be a complete meal or a lighter snack,” explains Ellen.
A sophisticated space
The sleek and elegant space was designed by Ethan’s partner, Annika Krausz. “I wanted it to be cosy, but without hiding the fact that it was formerly a garage,” she tells us. The owners wanted to create an interior space in their own image, more mature and refined, and one that could be enjoyed all year round.
A large terrazzo bar sits at the centre of the room, overlooked by a magnificent custom-made red light created by Hamster objets de compagnie. The abundance of natural light, the large arches, the high ceilings and the warm grey tones of the walls and floor add a touch of European refinement that softens the industrial feel of the room. The walls also feature magnificent works by Montreal painter Peter Krausz, Annika’s father.
“The inspiration here is a bit like walking through the streets of Milan and stumbling upon an old garage transformed into a bar or an art gallery”, the designer explains.
The team has also recovered the sound system from the former restaurant Agrikol. Which means you can expect top-notch sound quality! They frequently host DJs (and stay open till the wee hours for these events); follow them on Instagram to stay in the loop.
A family affair
Outside, those who knew Alexandraplatz will be delighted to find a full terrace in the warmer months set up next to the building, adding to the charm of the place.
“It’s really a family affair”, says Ethan Wills, who wants to see the brewery become a pillar of the neighbourhood and a meeting place for the local community.
“What we’re most excited about are the neighbours who have come to support us and are really happy that we’re here,” adds Annika.
In short, WILLS microbrewery is an address to (re)discover, both for former Alexandraplatz regulars and for lovers of good beer.
6729 Av. de l’Esplanade, Montreal, QC H2V 4P9
Sunday: Closed (for January and February)
Written by Gabriel Belzile
Photography by Alison Slattery