Entrance to Craft by Side Hustle from Galleria mall on Al Maryah island abu dhabi

There’s A Brewery in Abu Dhabi? Craft By Side Hustle

by Abu Dhabi Travel Planner Team

Yes, the conservative Muslim city of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, has just seen the opening of its first brewery. Yes, the drinks have alcohol. And yup, there are meals served, too. And yup, they are doing it well.

Let’s take a look at exactly what you can expect at CRAFT by Side Hustle, the latest premium dining venue to open on Abu Dhabi’s exclusive Al Maryah Island.

Already home to a string of luxury shops and hotels, will a Western-styled microbrewery concept really work in the capital?

the welcome sign for Craft by Side Hustle, found in the corridor connecting Galleria Mall and the Rosewood Hotel on Abu Dhabi's al Maryah Island

What’s the Story Behind Craft

So before we get into the tasty bits, how did a brewery come to be – the first of its kind in the Middle East region?

Side Hustle, as a brand, is not new to the UAE. Their distinctive ‘homegrown’ cans started popping up some years ago and could be found in venues such as Stars N Bars, onboard Etihad Airlines flights, and in select bottle stores.

Branded as the UAE’s first beer, the actual brewing and canning process took place in the US. Things changed, though, in 2021 with a little-known rule change that allowed for fermentation to take place in Abu Dhabi emirate, as long as consumption is on-premises.

Side Hustle Brews and Spirits co-founder Chad McGhee, used this opportunity to establish the first microbrewery in the United Arab Emirates. They still can’t package and sell their brews for off-site consumption, but you can enjoy your drinks in the new upscale microbrewery and gastropub venue in the city.

the brewing facilities at Craft by Side Hustle

At any given time, the taps at Craft by Side Hustle will serve around five to ten locally made brews, with plans to make around 75 different brews in their opening year. The Al Maryah-based brewery has the capacity to produce 25,000 pints per month, with each beer taking around three weeks to brew under the watchful eye of brewmaster Mitchell Dougherty.

As the manufactured stuff from Side Hustle you’re buying in stores differs from what you’ll get on tap, you’ll enjoy a different experience every time you visit Craft by Side Hustle.

Let’s take a closer look inside!

Dining at CRAFT by Side Hustle

Great attention has been paid to ensuring the food is on par, not just a poor second at this gastropub. On the extensive menu, you can expect many classic gastropub dishes from Head Chef Troy Payne.

The theme is distinctly southern US cuisine, with shrimp, jambalaya and brisket featured on the main menu, plus a hearty selection of Smokehouse platters with sides. Homemade sourdough pizzas, burger buns and hot sauces are a really nice touch. Everything is made fresh in-house, and portion sizes are generous and hearty.

delicious hot dog at Craft by Side Hustle ABu Dhabi's first brewery and gastropub

Vegetarians will be pleased to hear there’s a great selection, including a vegetarian platter you don’t often see. Our veggie friends can enjoy the smokehouse goodness, too, with corn, cauliflower and pumpkin the stars. Salads and lighter bites are available on the menu, too.

The desserts are worth saving some stomach room for with the Mississippi Mudcake and the Steam Toffee Pudding with rum and raisin custard a HUGE hit at our table!

The Beers at Craft by Side Hustle

OK, we won’t keep you holding any longer, the beers! We are familiar with a number of their brands that have slowly crept onto local alcohol shelves since they were introduced back in 2019, with hot favourites Jetlag Relief Pale Ale and Slipstream IPA regularly appearing in our home bar, so were we in for something new?

Yes, the taps at CRAFT by Side Hustle offer their own unique brews that will appeal to their broad expat audience, including Beach Day (Blonde Ale), Cloudy Wit (Belgian Wit) and Exhaust-ed (Session IPA) among our favourites.

beer tasting glasses at Side Hustle

If you’re unsure where to start, the tasting paddle is absolutely the way to go. Each taster is just AED 12 for a 4-ounce pour – choose as many as you’d like. The number of beers on tap for tasting is variable, but you should be able to get around 10-12 on any given visit.

You can scan the QR code on the bar if you need more information on each of the beers (and also really easily pay and split bills).

Craft beer-tasting connoisseurs will love the plans for seasonal batches, so your punters can return regularly for new flavours every time.

Expect to pay, on average, AED 50 for a 500 ml pour (neither an American nor a UK pint, go figure!)

Non-beer drinkers, you won’t be left disappointed either, as there are many craft cocktails on the menu using their branded Jetlag Relief Dry Hopped Gin, Straight Bourbon Wsky and Lost Barrels Louisiana Rum.

This is backed up by a brilliant selection of familiar brand-name spirits, grapes and bubbles (coming in around AED 45-75 a glass).

gin craft cocktail by craft by side hustle
spirit selection at craft by side hustle in abu dhabi, the city's first microbrewery

The Venue and Our Verdict on CRAFT By Side Hustle

The venue itself has crafted something that Abu Dhabi has sadly lacked for years: a sophisticated upmarket pub – not a stuffy hotel bar or a smoke-infested hovel that most ‘pubs’ in Abu Dhabi are synonymous with (albeit much improved over the past decade you can breathe in most pubs and sports bars now and get decent grub).

The 250-seat CRAFT venue in Al Maryah is really at the next level on the Abu Dhabi pub and nightlife scene. It draws not just drink enthusiasts but families that love the lively atmosphere of a pub with a non-smoking area available.

From the refurbished wood barrel entry designed by co-founder Jeff Karns to the brickwork interior and stunning wall mural designed by local artist Aleksandra Sova, every attention to detail has been paid to the interior.

mural on the wall inside craft by side hustle microbrewery in Abu Dhabi
attention to detail in the beer taps at Craft by Sidehustle Microbrewery in Abu Dhabi

The camel-adorned beer taps are a brilliant local touch, as are the glasses (please, please open a small merch shop, guys!)

It undoubtedly deserves a spot on your Abu Dhabi itinerary – not just the novelty of drinking at the region’s first brewery, but we do think you get value for money out of the meals and enjoy the unique flavours of UAE homegrown beer!

Planning Your Visit to Craft by Side Hustle

Where Exactly to find it: CRAFT by Side Hustle is located on the R1 level of The Galleria Luxury Collection, Al Maryah Island (In the passageway that connects Galleria Mall to the Rosewood Hotel).

You can access it from inside the mall, the drop-off point where Zuma is located, or from inside Rosewood.

There is plenty of parking at Galleria, or use this as an excuse to use the newly founded Zoufer in Abu Dhabi to get your car home. Arriving by taxi, ask to be dropped at the Rosewood and access through the escalators inside the hotel.

Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11:00 AM to 1:00 AM, and Friday/Saturday, 11:00 AM to 3:00 AM

We would highly recommend pre-booking to reserve your spot, even on weekdays – 02 631 9855, or via their Instagram, you can make online bookings.

Seated dining is available for smoking and non-smoking, or pull up a pew at the bar.

creative glassware used in craft by side hustle, the UAEs first microbrewery

Special Deal for Craft by Side Hustle

They are not appearing on any of the discount and foodie apps in Abu Dhabi just yet (and we’re not sure they will if they’re already doing a roaring trade by word of mouth), but do watch for these regular deals.

  • Brewers Lunch Menu AED 99, a set course masterpiece with a perfectly paired brew or house drink (Monday to Friday)
  • Happy Hour daily from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM on selected hops
  • Ladies Night is Wednesday from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Ladies can avail of three complimentary drinks while chilling the jazz sounds from Roxanne and the Band.

Learn more about Craft by Side Hustle at brewery.ae

Information correct as of February 2024.

Future of Brewing in the UAE

Will this open the floodgates of microbrewing in the UAE? Time will tell.

At this stage, Side Hustle looks to be the only player in the market and doing it well, so it would be a bold move for another competitor to enter the scene. However, we are equally excited to see the expansion of the industry. It could be a huge tourism boom with many purpose-made entertainment venues popping up all over the city.

In both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, there is no longer a need for a bar and restaurant license to be attached to a hospitality venue, which has greatly opened up opportunities for smaller players to offer licenced restaurant venues.

The ability to ferment and sell on-site is currently restricted only to Abu Dhabi, so don’t expect to see a similar opening in Dubai, yet.

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