Ramallah- A new kind of revolution is brewing in the Palestinian Territory. For the first time the alcoholic beverage, White Beer, is now locally brewed by the Taybeh brewing company, the only Palestinian beer company. The 3.9 - 5% alcohol-content White Beer is a new addition to the company’s four German-style beers [Golden, Amber, Dark and Light] and its alcohol-free brand.
The first of a number of beer-tastings took place recently at a popular Mexican-style restaurant in Ramallah, the Palestinian territory’s most upscale venue. Madees Khoury, the Taybeh Brewery’s managing director, plans a full month of similar events to introduce the new beer. “The taste is a bit similar to the international taste of white beer, but with a Palestinian twist”, Khoury told The Media Line.
“How about a taste of our new beer?” Khoury offering a taste of White Beer to a table of men and women thirty-somethings drinking and smoking a shisha [hookah or waterpipe].
Khoury takes pride that the beer is free of preservatives or additives. The group makes a toast before they taste the beer that Khoury had just poured from the bottles. A female taster at the table says she will order it again; while another diner complains that the beer is a bit bland and would prefer a bit more spice in their beer. The restaurant’s manager tells The Media Line the taste is very similar to the "Blue Moon" label beer in the United States.
Khoury is known to some as the only female brewer in Palestine. “Our traditional Taybeh Beer is on every menu in restaurants and liquor stores that serve alcohol, but the new white variety is still too new and is not yet found on all menus.”
The brewer tells The Media Line that posters bringing word of the new offering to stores and restaurants, along with the aggressive schedule of in-house tastings being hosted in eateries are informing customers who are beginning to ask for the beer.
A waiter at the Ramallah restaurant explains that the Taybah beer on draft is more popular than the bottled version.
The company’s slogan, “Taste the Revolution: Drink Palestinian” promotes buying and supporting Palestinian products. Unlike its competitors, Taybe Beer is made exclusively from Palestinian grown ingredients including local wheat, spices and fruits. As well, the brewing process takes place in the Palestinian Territory. The touch of nationalism is meant to boost sales and the economy.
Youssef Ahmed says he tasted the orange flavor in the beer. Ahmed’s friend Sawsan Salem is not a beer drinker, but she smiled as she sipped the beer. “Beer is usually bitter to me but this one is light and smooth. This could make me order beer from now on,” Salem told The Media Line.
A bottle of Taybeh Beer sells for between $2 to $3 in stores and around $5.5.0 in bars, a price some consider to be expensive. “The price is a bit high for a local beer,” said Sami Nabeel, adding that he enjoyed the smoothness of the white beer.
Majida Makhlouf is not a beer drinker. She was hesitant to taste it at first but was thrilled when she did. “It’s really amazing,” Makhlouf told Khoury as she was leaving, “I will definitely ask for it in the places I go to.”
The light-colored beer is mostly made from wheat by top fermentation and isn't a regular beer in the Palestinian market. “After 19-years in the market, we felt that there is a need for a new taste,” Khoury told The Media Line, “It’s not a market need but it’s time to take the next step as more people are being exposed to new tastes. Palestinians are more educated in terms of the quality and they want to enjoy the drinking experience,” explained Khoury.
Alcohol in Ramallah is not a new phenomenom: for decades a variety of Israeli and foreign beers have been offered in the Palestinian market, either in the liquor stores or at restaurants. As the Palestinian Territory has a historical mix of Muslims and Christians, selling alcohol is easier than in some other Arab countries where it is prohibited or allowed only by special permits. Cities where Christians or Samaritans live, such as Ramallah, Birzeit, Bethlehem and its neighboring towns, have no problem selling alcohol to anyone. Usually, the local municipalities decide if the city is to be "dry" [alcohol-free] or not.
However, promoting alcohol in a society with a majority of Muslims is not the typical marketing challenge. Billboards, radio, TV or print advertisements featuring alcoholic beverages are not allowed. “Word-of-mouth and international media reports help promote our beer in the Palestinian Territory,” according to Khoury.
Many international visitors ask to try the local Palestinian beer when they are visiting, a store manager explained, and Taybeh Beer is available in Japan, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Israel.
Taybeh Company, a family-owned business begun in 1994 in the West Bank village of the same name, was the first micro-brewery in the Middle East. Since producing its first brew in 1995, Taybeh has since developed an international following, highlighted by the annual event called, ”Taybeh OktoberFest.”
Khoury will be in a different restaurant weekly in Ramallah for the rollout. “I think this is the final taste of the white beer. Now it all depends on the feedback we get from our Taybeh Beer lovers to see whether the recipe will change.”
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