Despite Government Resistance, Beer Flows Freely for Palestinians
Adam Rasgon October 3, 2015 Beer festivals are not common events in the Muslim majority West Bank, but the Taybeh Brewing Company, a Palestinian microbrewery, has made Oktoberfest an important part of the Palestinian cultural calendar. Hosting its 11th annual Oktoberfest this September, Taybeh Beer transformed Taybeh, a serene West Bank village, into a celebration of Palestinian beer. Thousands of Palestinians and foreign nationals of all ages attended the festival, including high- ranking Palestinian officials from the president’s office, and multiple consul generals such as Donald Blome, for the United States. The festival featured the company’s four beers and performances by local artists from Ramallah and the surrounding environs. While the earlier hours of the festival were not particularly busy, by nightfall long lines of eager beer drinkers formed outside the festival’s entrance.
Attendees came for a variety of reasons beyond simply drinking beer. Raed, a young Palestinian from Bethlehem, said, “We are here to drink beer, but also to support the Palestinian economy and listen to some great performers.” Maddie Ulanow, an American currently living in Amman who traveled to the West Bank to attend Oktoberfest, said, “My roommate and I decided to go to Taybeh to see both a different part of the region and a different part of Palestine.”
Taybeh, an all-Christian village located just 19 kilometers northeast of Ramallah, is considered the beer capital of Palestine. Nadim Khoury, the 55-year-old co-founder and “master brewer” of Taybeh, originally began brewing beer in his dormitory while studying at Hellenic College in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1978. He brought a beer-making kit to Taybeh one year during a family vacation, and brewed beer for his family. His family was impressed, calling it “magic,” and encouraged him to brew it commercially. After the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Khoury and his brother Daoud Khoury, co-owner of the company and former mayor of Taybeh, returned to their birthplace following a 25-year stint in the United States to establish the first Palestinian beer company with their father, Canaan Khoury.