Overlooking the wide valleys and rolling hills of villages and cities across the Palestinian landscape lies Taybeh, a town small in size yet rich in historical, cultural, and religious significance. With its ideal location in what many consider as the center of what now makes up the West Bank, this biblical town attracts thousands of visitors a year, from those eager to walk the ancient paths of history to those looking to enjoy a panoramic view of the country.
Taybeh is a historical city and not just because of its biblical roots. The town impressively enough is the location of Palestine’s and the Middle East’s first microbrewery, and the region’s first and only female brewmaster, Madees Khoury.
Born to a Palestinian family looking to reestablish their roots in their hometown of Taybeh after years of living in the United States, the Khoury family took their passion for beer and transformed it into what has since become a global phenomenon. “My family came back to Palestine in 1994 to open the first microbrewery in the Middle East, so I got to grow up with the brewery, watching my dad, uncle, and grandfather get the business up and running,” says Madees Khoury. “I’ve been involved with the family businesses since I was nine, and I grew to love it, it’s fun, different and challenging, and I learned a lot from my dad and uncle. After college, I moved back to Palestine to work with the family, and I’ve been brewing professionally for the past 13 years.”
Following in her family’s footsteps, Khoury has since taken over the family business, running the daily operations, managing imports and exports, organizing tours, alongside keeping up with global demand, and coming up with new brews. However, while Khoury gets to live her passion brewing unique craft beers, the struggles are all too real for Palestine’s only female brewer, “In this country, it is difficult to do business, it’s already an unstable economy, and everyone gets affected by anything that goes on whether it’s in the country or region, so it’s always fluctuating, anything can happen at any minute,” she says.
From North to South America, Europe to Asia, Taybeh’s unique brews have an unwavering fan base across the globe. This impressive feat goes beyond selling craft brews, it’s a message of Palestinian resilience and industry, and is helping put the country’s export industry on the map. “It’s important for us to export our beer and wine because when people read Taybeh on the bottle they want to know more about it, and then they learn about Palestine, the culture, the people, so it’s not just great beer, it’s also become an image of Palestine,” she says.
Sharing a taste of Palestine with the rest of the world, the Taybeh Brewery infuses native herbs and spices into their craft beers which over time have become seasonal favorites, “Our herbal lager is made with Palestinian ingredients like zaatar, sumac, sage, and anis, and people love them. We also have the Golden, which has been in the market the longest for 25 years, and everywhere you go there’s a Golden, everyone loves it, it’s a classic.”
Despite the popularity of Taybeh’s selection of signature beers, Khoury has become a trailblazer in her own right. Ultimately, paving the way for women everywhere to break down barriers and overcome societal norms. Taking the reins of the Taybeh brewery in a male-dominated industry and society has been far from easy for Khoury. However, she remains hopeful as Palestine’s younger generation embraces a new era defined by diversity, change, and inclusivity.
Carrying on the family legacy of impact and change with Khoury at the helm, the Taybeh Brewery not only continues to employ several locals but helps the local community package and export their olive oil to international markets.
And with the annual two-day Oktoberfest, the Brewery actively promotes Palestinian culture, heritage, and industry on a global scale. Khoury further explains, “Since 2005 our Oktoberfest has been one of the biggest events in Palestine, but it’s not just a beer festival like everywhere else, it’s more to promote the town of Taybeh, for example, we have our local women organizations in Taybeh selling homemade crafts and our local restaurants are there with food stands, there’s live music, and activities, there’s something to do for everyone.”
As Khoury continues to defy stereotypes as the only female brewmaster in the Middle East, she is dedicated to humanizing a country that has come to be defined by instability and conflict, while challenging stereotypes and bringing people together. “Our door is always open,” she says. “And we want people to visit Palestine for themselves, to meet hardworking, successful, and smart people, who want to live their lives like everyone else, and hopefully through our beer and our brand we can help share our story as well.”
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