The Beer from Palestine
A small village in the Palestinian West Bank may not be the most likely place one associates with the production of beer and wine.
The Khoury family, founders & owners of Taybeh brewery & winery, tends to disagree.
After long years in Boston, Nadim Khoury returned to the predominantly Christian village of Taybeh in his native Palestine. There he founded the Taybeh brewery with his brother David in 1994. Since no one wanted to invest into what seemed a crazy undertaking, the family put up the necessary funds themselves. A decision which proved vital during the 2nd intifada in the early 2000s when business almost came to a standstill. The Khourys, independent from institutional lenders and banks, managed to keep their factory open.
"Brewing beer in Palestine is unlike anywhere else in the world" the Khourys say as they need to overcome countless obstacles - bureaucratic, cultural & logistical - most of which are caused by the Israeli occupation & the red tape.
While Taybeh is a predominantly Christian village, the Khourys' liberal approach does not go down well with conservative attitude of the West Bank's overall Muslim population and some of the village more conservative Christian inhabitants'.
Picture from the Taybeh facebook page
The annual 'Taybeh Oktoberfest' organized by the brewery had to relocate to the more urbane Ramallah as the village's mayor said the festival was irreconcilable with its traditional values writes Nadine Ajaka. Opinions are also divided over the questions if and how much the local community really benefits from the brewery & its festival.
Despite the countless hurdles Taybeh now produces around 660.000 litres of beer every year; they have introduced different styles, including a dark, a non-alcoholic 'halal' and a wheat beer. Taybeh & the Khoury family also has now Palestine's first boutique winery.
Both the brewery and the winery are now mostly managed by the Khourys' next generation: Canaan runs the winery and Madees, who may well be the only female brewer in the entire region, is in charge of the beer production and its distribution to restaurants & bars in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.
The export markets, in particular the US where some of the Khourys spent significant amounts of time and which therefore is long-held dream, poses additional challenges, from labelling requirements to shipping.
The Khourys remain upbeat about their brand & its ripple effect: " While the residents of Taybeh may have a dierent definition of what is normal, the brewery says it will continue to push those boundaries. "We have always wanted to [...] celebrate life and fun [and to] bring a sense of normality to Palestine."
A brief clip of the 9th Taybeh Oktoberfest by AFP | 2013