“Finest in the Middle East”
In the Christian village of Taybeh, reached by a narrow, crumbling strip of pavement through some of the highest hills in the West Bank, Nadim Khoury has been brewing beer since 1995. Appropriately named, Taybeh, it’s a favorite of ex-pats in Ramallah and East Jerusalem.
Jon and I stopped into the brewery unannounced last weekend and Nadim gave us a tour and tall glasses of free beer. Taybeh comes in dark, light and regular. Its slogan, “Finest in the Middle East” is not an exaggeration: it’s far better than the local beers of Israel, Egypt and Lebanon. (I haven’t tried Syrian beer.) The Palestinian uprising, which began in 2000, drastically cut production because Israelis, who had accounted for over half of sales, stopped drinking Taybeh. But, Taybeh is now brewed under license in Germany and Britain, and Nadim plans to export the first bottles to the United States next year. He said he was forced to make new labels before it could sold in the U.S., changing the location of the brewery from "Taybeh, Palestine" to "Taybeh, West Bank". He will start in Boston, a beer-friendly town, where his two daughters attend college.
Last month, Nadim’s brewery was narrowly spared by an angry mob from a neighboring Muslim village, he told us. A Christian man from Taybeh was accused of having an affair with a Muslim woman from the neighboring village. The woman’s family poisoned her to death, following the Arab custom, “honor killing,” and then, along with others from the village, descended on Taybeh and burned about a dozen houses before arriving at the front door of Nadim’s brewery. (The incident was covered in Israeli media.) He and his wife stood between the mob and the brewery, and called the police, who dispersed the crowd. On our way out of town, we saw several of the torched houses, their roofs charred and stone around the broken windows blackened by soot.