What’s Brewing in the Middle East?

In the Middle East it can be a challenge to find typical alcohol we see in our grocery stores, pharmacies, or gas stations here in the U.S.  In Islamic nations such as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Kuwait are places where alcohol is prohibited entirely to Muslims, and that’s because alcohol is consider to be Haraam, which is any sinful act or thing forbidden by Allah. This has been a long standing part of their culture over time, but now drinking alcohol has started to become less taboo in certain areas in the Middle East. A London-based market-research firm indicated that” between 2001 and 2011 sales of alcohol in the Middle East, where Muslims dominate, grew 72% against a global average of 30%. That rise is unlikely to be accounted for by non-Muslims and foreigners alone.” There does happen to be many Christians and tourist in these areas as well, but a lot of people go unaccounted for mostly because of the taboo that lingers so they keep the alcohol at home when they drink. Another factor for the increasing trend is now due to class status, in places such as Lebanon, Qatar, and Dubai because alcohol is an expensive commodity and it portrays high levels of prestige.  Despite the bans, negative stigmas, finances and challenges one faces when associating with alcohol in the Middle East, there are some individuals who are courageous enough to venture into the alcohol business.


In Lebanon a former banker, Mazen Hajjar, partnered with a Danish businessman, Henrik Hagen, to start up a brewery. They started small scale in Hajjars apartment and worked their way into a microbrewery with a signature craft beer called 961 Beer. There pub was such a success that they had to close down 3 years later to look for a new venue to accommodate the crowd. Although there business was booming the cost is a main issues due to importing ingredients, as well as high utility prices for the vast amount of water and power used for the brewing. According to New York Times Hajjar has come a long way since making that first batch of beer in a city under siege, and has shown remarkable change in tradition.


Other countries ,such as Jordan, are face a little more difficulty when starting a brewery though.  Yazan Karadsheh, Jordanian who has a love for beer, a degree in electrical engineering at UC Boulder, and degree from Master Brewer’s program at UC Davis, decided to start his own brewery. Faced with many more challenges that Hajjar, such as much higher taxes on utilities, uncooperative government institutions, and construction employees denying service just because his work dealt with alcohol. According to Vice Karadsheh says he has even been told to go stand in the corner because this is haram, but these challenges from the government hasn’t stopped Karadsheh ambition. Much of the local community supports his beer, Carakale’s, and acknowledge his success in competing with the Dutch beer, Amstel, which has dominate the market since 1958. Karadsheh is still working his way to actually making a profit after all the investments, but he explains how brewing means more than just profits, he says “Brewing is the only time when I don’t care what’s happening politically,” Karadsheh said. “I’m in the zone. Even on bad days, it’s crazy, it’s stressful, but somehow it’s relaxing at the same time.’.






4 thoughts on “What’s Brewing in the Middle East?

  1. Wow I had no idea that the market was growing at such a large rate! I knew that some Arab people behind closed doors drank and smoke “hashish”, but had just never thought it would be a significant market. Wonder what this says about the future of the industry in the region and if Islam will adapt to beer? Or whether they would maybe strengthen prohibitive laws.

  2. Can you imagine if alcohol was illegal in the U.S. again? That wouldn’t go over very well so it’s difficult for me to picture an entire religion/region that frowns upon the consumption of alcohol. It’s nice to see that the people who are making an effort to establish breweries aren’t doing it for the sole purpose of getting intoxicated but for the actual pleasure they have for the process and taste of a well brewed beer.

  3. Since alcohol is so readily available here, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like if it would be prohibited. However, it’s interesting to see that people are still brewing, and doing what they are passionate about even though they have to jump through many hoops.

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