Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cheers to Palestine’s beer... Taybeh!

Beer and Oktoberfest in Palestine? Yes, indeed.

After traveling for about 10 hours from Dubai, to Amman, passing the Jordanian and Israeli cross points, and finally a taxi ride to the Occupied West Bank town of Beit Jala, what better way to quench the thirst of the day than a beer, and a Palestinian beer at that – Taybeh (goodly in Arabic).

I am no expert on beer, but I loved it and stuck with Taybeh during my three-week stay in Palestine.

I was also told about the Taybeh Oktoberfest, which this year took place on September 19 and 20, unfortunately too late for my visit.

Taybeh Brewing Company is located in the Occupied West village of the same name, just outside Ramallah and 15 km from Jerusalem. It is a family-owned business established in 1994 following the Oslo Peace Agreement (1993). Brothers David and Nadim Khoury were inspired by their late father, Canaan David Khoury, to return to their home village of Taybeh after spending more than 20 years in the U.S. and establish the first microbrewery in the Middle East.

Their goal was to invest and boost the local economy by introducing new styles of natural hand-crafted microbrewed beers according to the German Purity Law -- with no preservatives or additives.

Nadim Khoury turned his hobby of making homemade beer during his college days into a career, becoming the master brewer. He is now passing on this passion and experience to his daughter, Madees Khoury, the only female brewer in Palestine.

Taybeh’s mission is to produce a premium high quality hand-crafted beer, contribute to the Palestinian economy, widen international market presence and elevate tourism. Their vision is to be the top performing beverage company in the Middle East with entrepreneurial leadership and innovative brewing techniques.

In 1997, Taybeh beer became the first Palestinian product to be franchised in Germany, where it was brewed and bottled for sale in Europe. The beer is also exported directly from Taybeh to Sweden and as far as Japan.

From 500 liters of beer in 1995, the company produced 600,000 liters in 2011, mainly sold in the Occupied West Bank and Israel. Before the Second Intifada in 2000, the beer was sold to upscale bars in Israel. According to David Khoury, the brewery now sells over six million liters a year,.

Nadim Khoury showing off four of the varieties of Taybeh beer
There are five varieties of Taybeh Beer -- Golden, Light, Amber, Dark, and White. In 2007, a new non-alcoholic beer variety was launched specifically for the local Palestinian Muslim market. The original brand is Taybeh Beer Golden, which I was drinking. The Dark and Light were introduced for the 2000 celebrations in the Holy Land. The Dark variety follows the classic way monks brewed beer in the Middle Ages to fortify themselves during their fasting.

The Nadim wines
In November 2014, Nadim Khoury opened a line of Taybeh wines – a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah -- marketed under the brand name "Nadim” (or drinking companion).

Taybeh is one of two Palestinian beers in the Occupied West Bank. The second, Shepherds, was launched in the university town of Birzeit last June. You can read about Shepherds in a recent article in the Financial Times.


The Taybeh Brewing Company has been welcoming people from all corners of the world to celebrate Oktoberfest every year since 2005 when David Khoury became the first democratically-elected Mayor of Taybeh.

He inspired the Taybeh Municipality, and all local civic organizations, to collaborate in boosting the collapsed local economy and place Taybeh on the international map.

Nadim Khoury serving Taybeh beer at the Oktoberfest
This unique event has been called the highlight of the Palestine summer season reaching over 16,000 visitors annually. The exquisite hills and valleys of the village offer the perfect escape from any busy schedule for all international and local people who come to support local products and boost the economy while celebrating the deep cultural heritage offered by one of the most ancient spots in Palestine also known by its Biblical name, Ephraim.

Taybeh village

Taybeh is among the last all-Christian communities in the Occupied West Bank. It has been identified as the site of Ophrah , mentioned in the Bible (Book of Joshua 18:23) as a town of Benjamin, which was later renamed Ephraim. But the word Ophrah was close in sound to afrit (demon in Arabic). Under Saladin, the name was changed to “Taybeh" -- "The goodly.”

Taybeh village in the Occupied West Bank
According to local tradition, Saladin met a delegation of Ephraim inhabitants during his wars against the Crusaders. Impressed by the hospitality of the locals, he named the village Taybeh, or “goodly” in Arabic. Another version of the story is that he was charmed by their goodness and the beauty of their faces, ordering the village to be renamed Tayyibat al-Isem (Beautiful of Name).

In the Bible, after Lazarus’ resurrection, Jesus retired to Taybeh with his disciples. John says, "Since that day on, they (the Pharisees) made the decision to kill him. Jesus did not walk in public among the Jews anymore. He went away to a region near the desert, to a city called Ephraim, and it was there that he and his disciples dwelt." (John 11: 53-54). This happened probably around the year 30.

In the 5th century, a church known today as St. George's Church, was built in the east of the town. In the 12th century, another church was built by the Crusaders, in attachment to the first one. They fortified Taybeh with the Castle of St. Elias.

In 1882, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described Taybeh as a "large Christian village in a conspicuous position, with well-built stone houses. A central tower stands on the top of the hill; on either side are olive and fig gardens in the low ground. The view is extensive on either side. A ruined church of St, George exists near, and there are remains of a ruined castle in the village.”