crowds of people stand outside the pub, chatting and clinking beer glasses -- but
this is not St Patrick’s Day in Dublin or Oktoberfest in Munich; it is just a
regular Thursday night in Tel Aviv.
by Europe and the United States, the Israeli city is fast becoming a hub for gastropubs
and boutique breweries, and many pub menus are filling up with local beers. In
fact, new micro-breweries are opening all over Israel, turning the “land of
milk and honey” into the “land of malt and hops”.
West Bank story
The biggest brewery in Israel is Tempo, based in the seaside town of Netanya.
Part-owned by Heineken, they have dominated Israel’s beer market since the
1950s with their Goldstar
However, in the mid-‘90s competition came from the unlikeliest of places – the
West Bank. Founded by Nadim Khoury, who studied the art of brewing in
California in the 1980s, Taybeh is the
first and only Palestinian brewery.
Situated 12km north of Ramallah and 30km northeast of Jerusalem, the village of
Taybeh sits atop one of the highest hills in the Jordan Valley. It is widely
visible thanks to its three church towers and the ruins of a crusader castle
built by the Boniface de Montferrat from Italy. But today, its biggest draw is the
Although alcohol is forbidden in Islam, the 1,500 residents of Taybeh can
produce and sell beer as it is an all-Christian village. The Koury family are
rightly proud of their German-style beer, which is made without any additives
or preservatives. The brewery runs free daily tours (except Sunday) including
tastings of their golden, light, amber and dark ales. The village even has its
Oktoberfest, held on the first weekend of October.
Beer has no borders, and Taybeh has proved to be a surprising hit in Israeli
bars, particularly in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. Indeed, more than 40% of Taybeh's
sales are within neighbouring Israel, and this tiny Palestinian beer seems to
have kick-started a micro-brewing trend.
An American ale
Over the past decade, a rising number of American immigrants have brought their
love of beer to Israel. The first microbrewery in Israel, Dancing Camel, was opened in Tel Aviv's Yad
Harutzim industrial area in 2006 by New Jersey-native David Cohen, who left a business
career to follow his dream to make quality beer.
is not surprising that Dancing Camel beer has a distinctly American taste and
mixes ingredients like date honey, bittersweet chocolate or even cherry vanilla
in its pale ales and stouts. More than a brewery, Dancing Camel is a huge warehouse-style
pub complete with decorative barrels, live sports screens and occasional keg
parties. Their beers are sold all over Israel in specialist pubs and the
brewery takes part in the Jerusalem
Beer Festival, held annually at the end of summer in the city's old train
Another American, Jeremy Waltfeld, quit his job at the White House in Washington
DC to start his own brew house in the town of Petah Tikva, 10km east of Tel
Aviv. Jems Beer Factory sells
its own range of fresh ales, stouts and wheat beers along with hearty pub grub
such as fish ‘n' chips and homemade kosher sausages.
Let there be lager
Hot on the heels of the Americans, came Alexander, an Israeli
brewery that opened in 2008 and quickly became a favourite in restaurants and
bars. A bona fide boutique brewery, It makes two main beers – Blonde, a Belgian-style
fruity beer, and Amber, a French country-style beer made from special roasted
malts. Alexander also offers two seasonal beers: Green, with an Israeli twist
of grapefruit, guava and mango, and Black with dark chocolate and espresso.
is located in the Hefer Valley, a small green belt of kibbutzim slightly inland
from Netanya and south of Haifa. The brewery was named after the nearby
Alexander stream by founder Ori Sagy, a former Israeli Air Force pilot who brewed
beer as a hobby for more than 25 years. The brewery welcomes visitors with a
45-minute tour of the brew house, which includes beer tastings.
Just north of the Hefer Valley in the Carmel Mountains is the charming rustic
town of Zichron Ya’akov. Known for its famous wineries, the town is also home
to Pavo, a brewery set in a Tuscan-style
building that comprises a visitor’s centre, tasting bar and an impressive balcony
with views of the Mediterranean below.
Scattered elsewhere around the country are even smaller micro breweries such as
Asif in Ramot Haftali and Malka in
Kibbutz Yechiam, both in the Galilee region, Lone Tree in the Judean Mountains and Negev in Kiryat Gat in the southern
desert. But if lacking time, the best place to sample many of these local brews
& Sons in Tel Aviv.
Although they do not produce their own brew, this pub has the biggest
collection of beer in the country, with more than 50 types on tap including both
local brews and imported beers. Whatever you drink, be sure to say LeChaim,
which means “to life” in Hebrew, a pleasant way to say “cheers”.
Dan Savery Raz is
co-author of Lonely Planet's Israel
and the Palestinian Territories guide.
The article 'The Holy Land of beer' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.