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Region’s first brewery to open in Abu Dhabi

Beer drinkers. A 2021 law allows for alcohol to be made and consumed on licensed premises in Abu Dhabi Unsplash/Fred Moon
Beer drinkers. A 2021 law allows for alcohol to be made and consumed on licensed premises in Abu Dhabi
  • Restaurant-brewery given licence
  • 25,000-pint monthly capacity
  • Emirate relaxed laws in 2021

A brewery is opening in Abu Dhabi this month, becoming the first to take advantage of relaxed alcohol laws in the emirate.

A licence has been granted to Craft by Side Hustle, a restaurant with a fully operational brewery on site. It will have the capacity to produce 25,000 pints of beer a month.

“We’re going to struggle to fulfil demand, I believe,” founder Chad McGehee told AGBI.

After a soft opening in December, the 250-seat venue in Abu Dhabi Global Market’s Galleria Mall is due to open its doors fully in February.

Beers will cost around AED45 ($12.25) and will be served alongside Louisiana-style dishes such as jambalaya and shrimp and grits.

The restaurant-brewery on Al Maryah Island is made possible by a 2021 change to Abu Dhabi law that allows for alcohol to be made and consumed on licensed premises.

McGehee, who moved to the UAE about 14 years ago, founded brewing company Side Hustle in 2018. He has been exporting beer to the Emirates from Side Hustle’s headquarters in Pennsylvania since 2019 – each beer can features an image of a camel.

For the restaurant, which is costing about $2.7 million, he has partnered with prominent local investors including Peter Samaha, owner of Quest Restaurants Management; Nadim Selbak, general manager of NZR International; and Adam Davis, managing partner of investment advisory Capital 3PM.

“We didn’t open this as our US company, we partnered with local partners to create a separate brand,” he said.

“It wasn’t going to work as a US entity to come in and try to create something. It needed to be more local, particularly in the food space of Abu Dhabi which is a unique space in itself.”

Alcohol laws in the UAE are governed by individual emirates. In Abu Dhabi, residents are not required to hold an alcohol licence to consume alcohol, but they must be over the age of 21 and be non-Muslim.

“We do hope to expand the Craft brand across the region as the laws change and more locations are allowing brewing,” McGehee added.

Side Hustle also makes gin, whiskey and hard (alcoholic) seltzer. It recently started exporting spirits to the UAE. Its spirits will be used in cocktails at the Craft restaurant.

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