Saturday, 9 February 2013


2011 Cabernet Sauvignon - Petite Sirah:   It is the end of my second week of work in the West Bank and a good time to open one of the bottle's of wine produced and bottled by the Taybeh Brewing Company to accompany a local lamb dish (fukhara).  The wine's aroma is a wonderful mix of dark berries, cedar, spices, eucalyptus and vanilla and the flavour is reminiscent of berries, jam and a hint of bitter chocolate.  I found it to have good balance and a smooth finish due to the slight acidity and medium level of tannins.  The wine would pair well with chicken as well as red meats. After tasting the wine I called Nadim Khoury to ask if he used oak barrels given my tasting notes implied some oak ageing but I had not seen any barrels at the new winery under construction at the hotel (expected to be open by Oktoberfest 2013).  Nadim explained that he used oak chips in the vinification process but is importing oak barrels for future use. The wine is a blend of 80% cabernet sauvignon and 20% petite sirah.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon:  I tried the 100% cabernet sauvignon  at a dinner with friends in Ramallah.  This wine is a deeper more opaque ruby colour and has rich aromas and flavours of bittersweet chocolate, leather, spices, black licorice and dark berries.  The tannins are more apparent than the blend described above and the wine would pair well with the  lamb dishes popular in the region.

A vineyard as both an economic and political strategy:  At present Nadim purchases grapes from local Palestinian producers.  Grapes are the second largest agricultural crop produced in the West Bank (olives being the number one crop). It is important to note that many Israeli wineries are either located in the occupied West Bank or use grapes grown by settlers in the West Bank.  The Taybeh Brewing Company is preparing land behind the brewery (terracing the hill as you can see in the photo above) in order to plant its first vines. Not only will the vineyard contribute to new white wine production but the vines will be planted to strategically contain an Israeli settlement (one of the three settlements close to Taybeh) that is situated on the hill to the west of the of the brewery.    

Settlements in Occupied Territory: Given that Israel facilitates the transfer of people into the occupied West Bank in order to change the demographic composition of the territory international legal scholars consider the settlements a violation of international law. Israel claims settlements are based on historical territorial rights. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention deals with transfer of people in an occupied territory.  The article ends by stating:  "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."   On January 31, 2013 the International Fact Finding Mission, appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on Palestinian rights, found that the settlements violate international law but stated that the International Criminal Court is the appropriate body to adjudicate the issue.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


Historic Taybeh: After a tour of the microbrewery in the West Bank town of Taybeh (Et-Taiyiba) the master brewer, Nadim Khoury, took me to see the ruins of the el-Khadr Greek Orthodox Church located near the town hall. The ruins date back to the Byzantine period (325-638) but the town itself dates back to the Bronze Age.  The town was called Ephraim in the New Testament and is referenced in John 11:54 as the place where Jesus and his disciples retreated from threats of violence. The current name (meaning good, delicious or fertile) was given by Saladin on his way to conquer Jerusalem in the 12th century.  Mosaic tile floors remain despite being open to the elements. Today villagers continue to make offerings and light candles at the ruins. From the church ruins and along the roadway one looks out to the Jordan River valley.   

From the ruins looking west toward the town.
Taybeh Tourism:  Nadim and the Khoury family are passionate about investing in Palestine to support the achievement of its political and economic self-determination.  This national vision is based on their roots in Taybeh and the agricultural products of the area.  Once in Taybeh I discovered that the brewery organizes an annual Oktoberfest with the municipality and that Nadim has been making wine, exporting olive oil from community producers to France, Germany and the United States, and is building a boutique hotel on the road overlooking the Jordan valley not far from the church ruins.  The hotel will house the winery and a brew pub.

Taybeh Products:  After my tour of the church ruins and the hotel I returned to the brewery for "one-stop shopping".  I left the brewery loaded down with two types of red wine, fresh pressed olive oil, beer, t-shirts and mugs with the brewery logo, and olive oil soap. I also left with a keen desire to return to stay at the hotel and explore the walking trails, the historic sites, the upcoming vineyard and enjoy the Taybeh landscape and hospitality.    
(See a youtube video on the annual Oktoberfest in Taybeh)

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Taybeh Brewing Company:  After the signing of the Oslo Agreement in 1993 (the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements), Nadim Khoury returned to his historic hometown of Taybeh in the West Bank, occupied Palestinian territory, in 1994.  Nadim had studied engineering in Boston and then went to California to UC Davis to study in the master brewers program.  Taybeh Brewing Company ( was formally established in 1995 on the Khoury family property and is the first and only Palestinian brewery.   Nadim's daughter, Madees, is the first female brewer in Palestine.

Tour of the Brewery:  Nadim explained each step of the brewing process, which follows the German Purity Law of 1516, as he showed me the equipment used at each stage.  Malted barley imported from France or Belgium is ground (mashed) on site and heated with water to convert the barley to malt extract. The "spent" barley is given to local farmers for animal feed.  Hops and then yeast are added prior to the 30 day fermentation process.  The beer is clarified , bottled and ready for shipping.

Taybeh beer is enjoyed locally and exported to Japan, Sweden, Germany, Israel and Belgium.

Tasting:  Taybeh beer is unpasteurized and has no added fillers or preservatives which presumably explains the refreshing, crisp taste of the  Golden and the Draught styles of Taybeh beer I have tried.  I must confess that I have yet to study the beer course in the sommelier program so I will have to do a more "professional" tasting on my next trip to Palestine!  I did note an ever so slight bitter (but pleasant) flavour on the finish of the Golden beer.  I have yet to try Taybeh's Amber, Dark and non-alcoholic styles. 

From Ramallah to Taybeh:  I notified Nadim and Madees of my intention to visit the brewery via email and they kindly accommodated my visit during my first weekend in Ramallah.  I took a taxi from Ramallah to Taybeh (a 30 minute journey) passing by Jalazone, one of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank.  The camp was established in 1949 and has more than 11,000 inhabitants today.  Jalazone lies to the west of the road and immediately east, behind the usual fencing, is an Israeli settlement.  The taxi driver named each village we passed through (and quizzed me on the return trip to ensure I remembered the names) as well as the Israeli security points along the way.