Alleyway bar John Mills Himself cares about drink miles

Natascha Mirosch
From left: Billerwell Daye, Helen Bird and Marcus Allison.
From left: Billerwell Daye, Helen Bird and Marcus Allison. Photo: Natascha Mirosch

Care about your food miles? Well what about your drink miles? How far our liquor has travelled, the fuel consumed and effect on the environment is something that's being taken seriously at Brisbane CBD's newest bar-to-be, John Mills Himself.

Mills was a printer in Adelaide Street and originally traded with a partner as Mills and Green. In the early 1900s the business went belly-up and to make it clear he and his business partner had parted company, he changed his trading name to John Mills Himself. In 1919, Mills had a fine brick building designed by Brisbane architect John Henry Burley in Charlotte Street and, as was the custom of the time, had his company name picked out in brickwork on the front. Which provided inspiration for naming the fledgling venue of Helen Bird (of Street Food Australia and Pearler design studio), Billerwell Daye also of Pearler and Marcus Allison of Bunker Coffee in Milton.

The petite bar is hidden away, accessed from the back of the building down an Elizabeth Street driveway ending in a shabby alleyway with cracked cement and graffitied walls. Seating just 21, Bird reckons John Mills Himself will be the smallest bar in Brisbane. Certainly it will be the only bar in the city that uses no imported liquor and surely the only one that has each drink on the list noted with the "drink miles" it travelled to arrive in your glass.

They have also put a moratorium on multinationals, so don't expect any big-name beers, wine or soft drinks. Instead there will be four locally brewed beers on tap plus locally made cider, Queensland wine and Australian liqueurs and mixers as well as free purified carbonated water.

The trio have been working towards an early January opening, stripping back painted walls to uncover the original brickwork and exposing the heavy wooden beams supporting the ceiling of the heritage-listed building. Floor tiles have been jackhammered back to bare concrete and will be replaced by small hexagonal tiles with a welcome mat tiled in at the doorway. Decor inspired by the 1920s will pay homage to the building's history, with a monochromatic interior scheme and comfortable older-style furniture.

While it will operate as a bar in the afternoon and evenings, mornings will be dedicated to coffee from Bunker, made from locally roasted beans. The famous Bunker hot and cold "heirloom" chocolate will be made with local Barambah and Maleny milk.

Bird says that in the future the trio hope to offer simple and locally made bar food such as charcuterie, homemade pickles and cheese. Longer-term plans include beautifying the dingy laneway.

John Mills Himself is scheduled to open on January 6.