Abu Dhabi Sees First Brewery Open As The United Arab Emirates Relaxes Alcohol Laws

Back in 2018, Chad McGehee opened an Abu Dhabi-branded brewery and distillery, Side Hustle Brews and Spirits. It had playful names as well as funky camels on the cans familiar to residents of the United Arab Emirates. The only issue was that producing alcohol in the UAE was illegal. The company had to hop to the United States and then import everything in the United Arab Emirates for sale. 

Now, the untapped desert city has its first brewery open as things have all changed. Abu Dhabi has overhauled the alcohol laws. The relaxed alcohol laws now allow for micro and craft breweries to take Abu Dhabi by storm, just like they have done with the rest of the world. The reconsideration of the alcohol policies in the nation of Islam will now become a hot spot for tourists. Now, Chad McGehee’s dream of running an IPA in the Arabic region can be realized – even though it took a lot of hard work to get there. They were the first ones to open a brewery and distillery for sure. 

Alcohol Laws

On a recent afternoon, Chad McGehee sat down with our team at a brewpub on the Al Maryah Island of Abu Dhabi. He shared about the regulations created by the Government around fermentation. He shared how the steps for inspection, getting a permit, and more haven’t been put in ink yet. It had to be built. Chad McGehee and his team were going through this process. 

Abu Dhabi is more buttoned-up than the neighboring emirate, Dubai. Many residents living in the United Arab Emirates expressed how Dubai is home to beach bars, night clubs, and pubs. Dubai draws residents and tourists to imbibe. Among the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, there is an outright ban on the sale and the consumption of alcohol similar to neighbours like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. 

Abu Dhabi first changed its policies in 2020. It eliminated Abu Dhabi’s licensing system for purchases of alcohol made by drinkers. The main motive of it was to boost tourism and sales during COVID-19. Eliminating such policies allowed Muslims if they chose to drink. It also decriminalized the possession of alcohol for residents who did not have a license. 

One of the partners at Craft, a brew pub of Side Hustle, believes the United Arab Emirates is always progressing and moving forward. 

The United Arab Emirates still follows a strict policy of no-tolerance on public intoxication and drunk driving. Islam also finds alcohol consumption as forbidden or “haram.” 

Alcohol sales have been a major tax revenue driver and money-maker for the United Arab Emirates. For instance, the Dubai Duty Free sold over 6 million beer cans last year, 3.8 million liquor bottles, and 2.3 million whiskey bottles. Despite such huge demand, there is nothing available for opening a brewery in the United Arab Emirates. That’s why McGehee had to import almost everything from the United States for the brewery.