Archive for the ‘palestine’ Category

beer notes #35

September 1, 2010

Taybeh Beer Golden  Palestine  5%
Taybeh Beer Amber  Palestine  5.5%

Not unlike Chateau Musar, the story of the Taybeh Brewing Company is one of passion for family, place and quality product. Despite tremendous adversity, the Khoury family have been brewing in the West Bank since the mid-nineties. “The finest beer in the Middle East” is their slogan – one that is very easy to agree with. The Master Brewer, Nadim Khoury, an engineer by trade, returned to Palestine from the US with his young family and brother, David, after the Oslo Accords with the stated aim of contributing to a successful, independent Palestine. Nadim told us how he first got the idea of a Palestinian microbrewery as a college student in the 70s when he’d bring back various bits of home brewing equipment from Boston for his father who was unable to get any decent beer locally.

 
Taybeh Beer is named after the village that it is located in, the ancestral home of the Khoury family. It sits high above Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. In a happy coincidence, the word “taybeh” means “delicious” in Arabic; the town was renamed by Saladin, having been formerly known as Ephra, meaning “unpleasant” – probably for the best as far as marketing is concerned. Taybeh is the only remaining Christian town in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories; like everything in these parts, it’s got an incredible, long history, even cracking a mention in John’s gospel. If you’re interested, there’s a great history section on the town’s webpage. 

 
These days much of the brewing process is managed by Nadim’s delightful daughter, Madees. About our age, she was onsite the day we visited and we had a great hour or so chatting away, despite occasional visits from tightfisted, septuagenarian Italian tour groups and a working day that had kicked off at 4:30am. She poured us a wonderfully fresh Golden from the keg. It was refreshing and subtle – everything you want from this style of beer. A quality sessional, it has slightly sweet malts and some hops. My little notebook insightfully records: “It tastes like good beer.” 14/20. I brought some of the Amber back to Jerusalem (along with a poster, two stickers, postcards and a Tshirt, being the sucker for merch that I am); it’s more complex; not as successful as the Golden, but still very drinkable. 12/20. There’s simply no other amber or dark beer in the Middle East, so the fact that Taybeh is even attempting to turn people onto it is a victory for good beer.

 
The beers are available thoughtout Europe and the Middle East and are even brewed under licence in Germany. Despite some enquiries, it’s not been profitable to send it to Perthland just yet. Israel has signed a free trade agreement with the United States that covers the West Bank and would allow for the export of Taybeh, but so far the beer’s export has been blocked because of a labeling issue: the family don’t want to change “Made in Palestine” to the mandatory “Made in Israel”. 
 
A little part of me was worried about going out to Taybeh – would it be depressing? Good people with a good idea, going slowly broke under the stresses and vagaries of occupation? But we found a vibrant and happy family courageously working against the slow burn of the occupation and, seemingly, every wrongheaded stereotype of the Palestinians. But things are very hard. As I walked out of the microbrewery, I picked up a pamphlet advertising Taybeh’s annual Oktoberfest, which attracts thousands. I was stunned by the power of its closing words written by Dr Maria Khoury, David’s wife;
Taybeh Beer means everything right now. It means that we want to work for a modern Palestine where democracy, freedom, and human rights would encourage all to thrive. It means that we are just craving to be “normal”.
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