Thursday, February 23, 2006

[ePalestine] Palestinian brewery to launch 'Hamas' near beer


Palestinian brewery to launch 'Hamas' near beer

Beermaker decides to develop non-alcoholic beer brandished with label that matches
Hamas's trademark color.

By Kerry Sheridan - TAYBEH, West Bank Like any good entrepreneur, Palestinian
beermaker Nadim Khoury knew that adaptation would be key to his brewery's survival under
a government led by the Islamists of Hamas.

So anticipating the hardliners' rise to power in January's general election, Khoury decided to
develop a new product - a non-alcoholic microbrew brandished with a label that coordinates
perfectly with Hamas's trademark color.

"I figured why not have a green label so it will match?" said Khoury, who runs the Taybeh
Brewing Company, the only brewery in the Palestinian territories. "All customers will notice
the green for the Hamas flag."

The alcohol-free version of Taybeh beer, with a label inscribed only in Arabic and whose
name means "delicious," is to be released this summer and will target the "local market," he

Non-alcoholic beer is already popular in a number of conservative Gulf Arab countries which
officially ban booze sales.

The lucrative market potential was highlighted by a deal four years ago which saw Egypt's
largest brewer of "near-beer," Al-Ahram Beverages, bought by Heineken for 280 million

Khoury says he will start small with his new beer, maybe only a few hundred bottles at first,
but he has big dreams for his brewing factory in the hilltop village of Taybeh, a historically
Christian town of about 1,300 people near Ramallah in the West Bank.

A sense of homeland pride and the family's ability to invest more than one million dollars
spurred Nadim, who was born in Taybeh, to return after two decades in the United States in
order to build the brewery shortly after the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993.

Now in its 11th year of business, Khoury said the brewery sells the equivalent of about 1.2
million pints per year, though its peak output was more than twice that in 2000 prior to the
outbreak of the second intifada against Israeli occupation.

Violence was bad for business, and the intifada brought a wave of harsher regulations in
many Palestinian cities.

Khoury hasn't been able to sell his beer in the Gaza Strip for years, since militants torched
the home of one of his distribution outlets and radical Islamists effectively made selling
alcohol impossible throughout the crowded territory.

But Khoury hopes attitudes will change with his new non-alcoholic beer.

"I don't want to smuggle my beer in Palestine. I believe I have a right to sell mine (in the Gaza
Strip)," said Khoury, an unabashed nationalist who touts his beer factory as a boon to the
Palestinian people and their economy.

"Every time we sell a bottle of beer it goes toward building the state of Palestine," said

Khoury says his first name Nadim means "your friend who sits at the bar with you, your
drinking buddy," and his chief product is Taybeh Golden beer, though he also makes a light
version and a dark beer.

The Taybeh brews are concocted from four natural ingredients -- malted barley, hops, yeast
and pure spring water. Each bottle sells for around one dollar.

The gentle, amber-colored Taybeh Golden is sold in parts of Israel, the West Bank, Britain
and Germany.

However, among secular Muslims in the area who do drink alcohol, not all are devoted fans
of its mellow taste.

"It's okay. It's good," shrugged one Arab-Israeli taxi driver in Jerusalem, who admitted he
hadn't drunk any Taybeh in at least two years.

A waiter at a bar in occupied East Jerusalem said: "I prefer Irish whiskey. Jameson."

Hamas leaders, who now dominate parliament, have not made clear whether or not they will
seek to impose conservative sharia law which would impose a wider ban on alcohol.

Khoury remains optimistic.

"I think they (Hamas) are very smart, very educated. I believe they will think twice before they
do anything to hurt our business."


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