The West Bank, Beer, and a Boston University Alum

| September 30, 2011

(NOTE: BU Culture Shock does not condone irresponsible and underage drinking.)

I crossed the Green Line for this glass of beer.

The long road to the Taybeh Brewing Company stretches all the way back to March of 2011. At that point, my trip to Israel was just a pipe dream, a vague plan for the summer so I could tell people I “had plans.” I was a rookie home brewer then, but I was falling further in love with the craft every day. Though I could not attend brewery tours around Boston at that point, the notion of visiting a microbrewery in a country not known for good beer was too attractive to resist. So I Googled it.

The first search result for microbreweries in Israel caught me by surprise. “Taybeh Beer,” it said, “The Finest in the Middle East.” I had not actually stumbled upon an Israeli microbrewery, but a Palestinian brewery! Intrigued, I emailed brewmaster Nadim Khoury to inquire about visiting from the US. After a couple weeks of correspondence with the brewery, I decided that, should I visit Israel that summer, I would be making my first trip over the Green Line.

Lo and behold, I bought my ticket to Israel and began to make plans. Since I knew my family would flip out about this trip, I kept it on the down low. Only my aunt, uncle, and a couple friends from home had any idea that I planned to go to “a brewery outside of Ramallah.” Coupling the trip with an interview, I emailed the brewery only the day before to alert them I would be coming. The following is an excerpt from Maria Khoury’s reply:

Dear Adam

We are very happy to accept you for a Taybeh Beer Tour

at your convenience

we are open daily and give on going tours from 8am to 4pm

closed on sundays

I am a BU graduate by the way, 1992, school of education

and I have organized the taybeh oktoberfest for six years in Taybeh

 

After a 40 minute bus ride from East Jerusalem and a 40 minute cab ride from Ramallah, I stepped gingerly out into the hot desert sun and immediately sought shade in the first open building I saw.

Welcome to Taybeh!

Taybeh Brewing Company's welcome sign, made of bottle caps.

Maria (SED ’92) greeted me with a warm smile and a handshake. She handed me a sample of their Golden beer, a crisp, lightly flavored beer upon which the brewery was founded. She walked me around the brewery and described the function of each piece of equipment. She told me the story of how they built up the brewery…

The year was 1995. The Oslo Accords had just been signed, believed at that point to be the first step to a final lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. In an effort to support the future Palestinian state, brothers and Palestinian citizens David and Nadim Khoury hatch a plan to start up the first microbrewery in Palestine. This dream soon became a reality when they moved from Boston back to their hometown of Taybeh, families in tow. Starting with one recipe, they quickly became popular in the region by selling the beer across the border in Israel. They have now attained a status such that their beer is not only sold in Palestine and Israel, but is actually exported overseas from the Port of Ashdod (when it isn’t on strike, a common occurrence according to Maria).

Working at the brewery

That’s not to say they haven’t faced challenges along the way. Maria tells me that, though the more secular Palestinian Authority has allowed beer to be sold in the West Bank, the fundamentalist Hamas party ruling the Gaza Strip still forbids alcohol. Taybeh has developed a non-alcoholic, apple flavored beer that can be sold there. The bigger issue involves crossing the border into Israel, a tedious process that has previously resulted in them getting turned away at security, wasting a day of work and a decent amount of gas only to not be able to deliver their product. Even when they do get through security, the aforementioned strikes have barred them from shipping their product out, meaning they must return to Taybeh and try again the next day.

Ultimately, the easiest way to support this brewery is to go visit. The trip is not that difficult from Jerusalem and the payoff is delicious. If you’re in the region the first weekend of October, the Taybeh Brewing Company hosts an annual Oktoberfest celebration with local music and lots of beer. If you’re not there in October, they always welcome tourists interested in seeing a brewery. Having been there, I highly recommend it. 

Fe sahetek!

The Taybeh Brewing Company’s annual Oktoberfest celebration runs this weekend, October 1st and 2nd, in the city of Taybeh. For more details, check out their website.

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Category: featured, Food and Travel, Social Activism

About the Author ()

Adam Even Engel (CAS '12) is a founding member and current editor for BU Culture Shock. As the son of an Israeli mom and an American dad, he was raised in Framingham, Mass and transferred to Boston University after spending his freshman year at Binghamton University in upstate New York. He now studies chemistry and computer science. His future plans involve figuring out his future plans, perhaps getting lost on the way. Oh, and he is more than a little embarrassed by his picture, but he has been barred from changing it by consensus of BU Culture Shock writers and editors.