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First brewery in UAE history to open

The first brewery in the United Arab Emirates is due to open following a change in the laws allowing for alcohol production and on-site sale in the state.

(An artist’s impression of the brewpub in Abu Dhabi)

Called Craft by Side Hustle, the brewing facility is within a restaurant and brewpub/microbrewery, which has been created in partnership between local restaurant entrepreneurs and the producer Side Hustle Brews & Spirits.

The brewpub will be located in The Galleria Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi. Although the brand has previously sold beers in the UAE and on Etihad Airlines flights, the firm’s brewing process had been taking place in the US.

But now following the rule change in 2021, the company will be the first drinks brand in the UAE to ferment alcoholic beverages for consumption on-site for sale through draught lines, following an approval for such a licence by the local authorities.

The facility will not be able to package brews for distribution at other venues or retail outlets but can produce as much as 25,000 pints per month with hops and ingredients for production imported. According to Side Brew, there will be 75 different brews made across the next 12 months, with around five to ten available at any given period of time.

The law states that the allowance of alcohol licence holders in the state to ferment alcohol was undertaken with the “objective to develop and improve quality standards of the tourism industry in Abu Dhabi”.

The company will serve its own beers alongside Louisiana-style food and bayou dishes such as jambalaya at the brewery taproom, which is being soft-launched this month in dining location, before an official opening in February next year.

The Craft by Side Hustle is a local UAE company created in partnership with local investors Peter Samaha, Nadim Selbak, Adam Davis and Balmaghie. One of the investors in the brewpub Balmaghie Beverage Group, was set up by Chad McGehee, an IBM worker who moved to the UAE more than a decade and co-founded the drinks company.

He told the drinks business that following the soft launch of the site he was “always interested in discussion options for growth” of the Craft by Side Hustle brand within the UAE.

McGehee said that he didn’t have any “direct knowledge” of any other brands or outlets applying for permit however, and it is unclear to what extent the move will become more widespread across the industry, following Side Hustle’s first step.

He made the decision alongside his business partners due to wanting to “drink better” in the UAE. According to comments he made to Bloomberg, he said: “we legitimately made this beer for us to drink, and then it just kept growing”.

Brewing and distilling originally occurred in Pennsylvania, including pale ales, Czech and German-style pilsners, before the latest move to brew in the state itself. It also makes hard seltzers.

The move comes as the UAE looks to expand its tourism reach and attract more visitors. The production of alcohol is still banned outright in many countries across the region, including sales, consumption and possession. But recently neighbouring Dubai has expanded its bar and restaurant licences to retail outlets, as well as free-standing hospitality venues which aren’t attached to hotels and similar facilities.


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