Wills: Modern microbrewery in the former Alexandraplatz

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Launched by Ethan and Alex Wills, the microbrewery-bar Wills has opened in the former location of the Brasserie du Vieux-Montréal, which had rented the space out front to the Alexandraplatz team.

The two cousins had long dreamed of opening a microbrewery, and of creating a sustainable project together. The pandemic finally provided the impetus to make it happen.

“We weren’t looking to capitalize on the heritage of the place,” says Ethan Wills. “Our main goal was to open a microbrewery. The location had all the features we were looking for, and the fact that it also had a space that was licensed as a bar, was just a plus.”

Ethan was co-owner of the restaurant Lawrence on St. Laurent Street, while Alex worked in the oil industry. “We have complementary skill sets, he and I” Ethan says. “I’m more of a creative type, while Alex is more on the practical and rational side. There’s a surprisingly high degree of overlap between working in oil and working in beer. They’re both liquids going through tubes into tanks,” he jokes.

At the time of writing, the brewery is not yet fully operational; the two partners are still waiting for their equipment to be delivered, as the slow economic recovery has caused delays in supply. The bar, on the other hand, was ready. And so, just in time for summer, they decided to open to the public, and we couldn’t be happier!

Craft beer, natural wine and house cocktails

For now, the bar will offer a selection of beer on tap and in cans from guest brewers from Canada and abroad. However, Ethan hopes to be able to offer his first draft beer by the end of the summer.

The microbrewery will focus more on quality and precise execution than on the allure of new and fancy beers. “Our focus will be fresh, easy drinking beers that are balanced,” Ethan says. A tasting room will also be established on the brewery side. Visitors will be able to taste the products and purchase them on site.

In addition to the beers, Wills also has a great selection of wines and cocktails. Manager and sommelier Kaitlin Doucet (ex-Foxy and Olive + Gourmando) is in charge of the wine list. There is a nice selection of natural wines that varies according to arrivals, with about ten choices by the glass.

The house cocktails are crafted by Devojka (no last name, she insists!), who studied under Sam Ross at Attaboy in New York—an establishment regularly cited as one of the best cocktail bars in the world. She offers creations inspired by classic cocktails, but with her own twist; like the Carolina Fashioned, a cognac and peach liqueur cousin of the Old Fashioned.

A more refined interior space

The sleek and elegant design of the space is the work of Ethan’s partner, Annika Krausz. “I wanted it to be warm, but not hide the fact that it was formerly a garage,” she says. The owners wanted to create an interior space that was more mature and refined, and could be operated year-round.

A large terrazzo bar sits in the centre of the room, overlooked by a beautiful red light fixture created by Hamster. The abundant natural light, the large arches, the high ceilings, and the warm grey tones of the walls and floor bring a touch of European refinement that mitigates the industrial side of the room. The walls also feature the magnificent paintings of Montreal artist Peter Krausz, Annika’s father.

“The inspiration is a bit like walking through the streets of Milan and finding an old garage transformed into a bar or an art gallery,” says the designer.

The team has also acquired the sound system of the former restaurant Agrikol; So you can expect excellent sound quality!

A family affair

Outside, Alexandraplatz regulars will be happy to find a few tables set up in the parking lot next to the building; a small improvised terrace that adds to the charm of the place.

To eat, the Winneburger food truck from Nouveau Palais will be parked out front to satisfy any cravings until the bar establishes its own culinary offerings.

“It’s a family business and I hope that it has the capacity to become sort of a linchpin to the local community here,” Ethan Wills tells us.

“What we’re most excited about is the neighbours who have come out to support us, and are super happy we’re here,” adds Annika.

In short, Wills is an address to (re)discover, both for Alexandraplatz regulars, and for lovers of good beer, excellent cocktails, and natural wine.

Photography by Mikael Lebleu

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