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Tasting the Revolution in Taybeh, Palestine

October 10, 2009
Nadim Khoury, President of Taybeh Beer

Nadim Khoury, President of Taybeh Beer

Note: This article was published in The Calhoun Times in spring, 2009. Oktoberfest in Taybeh took place last week.

Amman, Jordan

When Nadim Khoury returned to Taybeh, Palestine from Boston in 1994, his goal was to brew up an economic revolution. Fifteen years his business, Taybeh Beer, is growing, and the revolution has spread.  Khoury started the company on land that his family owned in the small Christian town of Taybeh, just a few miles north of Ramallah. He returned to Palestine after living in Boston since 1979 specifically to start Taybeh Beer. Since then, his beer has been distributed to Japan, and all over Israel and Palestine, and has branch that brews under license in Germany. Taybeh Beer is, according to Khoury, the best known Palestinian product, and remains the only microbrewery in the Middle East.

When Khoury spoke to me about the expansion of his company, he began by providing a context for economic growth in Palestine. ““We suffer so much with the occupation, the wall – these obstacles are not easy to pass. But we are determined to stay and resist the occupation and these obstacles.” That said, Taybeh Beer’s growth has been, in Khoury’s words, rapid. Along with distributing to Israel (which is itself a form of political victory) and Japan, and brewing in Germany, Taybeh Beer has opened an office in Boston, Massachusetts and is working toward distribution in the United States.

The word “Taybeh” means “delicious” in Arabic; so the beer is named after the village of Taybeh and after the description it should inspire in those who drink it. The first beer Khoury brewed at Taybeh is their classic: Taybeh Golden. Since then Taybeh Beer has brewed Amber, Dark, Light, and recently a Non-alcoholic variety. Taybeh follows the 1516 German Purity Law, which stipulates that beer must contain only water, barley, and hops. Barley is imported from Belgium and France, hops from Bavaria and Czechoslovakia, and the water comes from a fresh spring outside of Taybeh.

Taybeh Beer’s purpose, however, beyond making a good product, is very clear to Khoury. “We are a small example to encourage Palestinians to not wait for aid. Taybeh Beer is a permanent help to Palestine. The money from Taybeh Beer doesn’t just go to my family, it goes to the workers, the people driving the trucks, to taxes. It boosts the economy of Palestine.” Taybeh Beer’s slogan is “Drink Palestinian, Taste the Revolution,” and these words can be seen on signs around the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Despite the pressure of brewing beer in a largely Muslim country (alcohol is forbidden in Islam), Taybeh has carved out a niche of beer in the service of the Palestinian cause.  “I came back to start the first Palestinian Beer company and I’m proud of it,” says Khoury, “And I want other Palestinians to do the same. If we keep fighting we will get nowhere. If we work hard, we can produce good products like Taybeh Beer and show the whole world what we can do.”

Taybeh Beer, as Khoury says, “literally put the town of Taybeh on the map.” Khoury hopes that interest in the beer will encourage tourism and motivate people to come to Palestine and see it for themselves. Taybeh Beer is, Khoury says, tourist-oriented and already sees considerable tourist traffic. The town of Taybeh and Taybeh beer have hosted an Oktoberfest celebration each year since 2005 and feature performers, musicians, and artists from the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Taybeh Beer’s 2009 Oktoberfest celebration will take place in the town of Taybeh  on October 3 and 4. Those interested in attending can watch for Oktoberfest details on Taybeh Beer’s website: http://www.taybehbeer.com.

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