After opening the first microbrewery in the Middle East in 1994 and launching a local version of the well-known German Oktoberfest in 2005, the Khoury family now counts an inspiring young businesswoman among them.
Madees Khoury, 31, the eldest daughter of Nadim, one of the founders of the Taybeh Brewing Company, is considered to be the first Palestinian female brewer in the Middle East.
“I want to pursue my father’s dream. Since I was 10 years-old, I had been running around the brewery, watching my father and uncle working hard to establish this company. Growing up, I became more involved in the business every year, even when I was abroad,” Khoury told The Media Line.
Khoury graduated with master’s degree in business administration in Boston, where she also interned at a local brewery. At 21, she bought a one-way ticket back home and she has been working in the family business ever since.
As general manager of the Taybeh Brewing Company, the energetic woman is in charge of most of the day-to-day operations. You will find Khoury on the brewery floor actively brewing, controlling quality, giving tours, dealing with customers or supervising exports, as well as organizing events.
“I enjoy every part of the job; it is interesting, enriching, and actually a lot of fun. Of course, brewing is exhausting, but there is great satisfaction when I go out and see people enjoying our beers. I feel really proud to tell them that I made the beers they are drinking,” she said.
Khoury revealed that Taybeh’s Amber flavor is her personal touch to the company. “When I came back in 2007, my father was producing only the Golden and the Dark versions. I wanted to produce a very different product; so we worked on it together. It took us a long time experimenting, to get the exact flavor I had in mind. But eventually we made it, and it seems the customers are happy with the result,” she added.
When asked what challenges she faces, Khoury explained that the challenging part is less the brewing process, but more customer service.
“Because I am a woman and young, it happens that some clients, usually the older generation, don’t take me seriously, or they just don’t want to negotiate with me, but rather with my father or uncle. We are still in a male-dominated society, even if things are moving forward slowly,” she said. ” However, members of the younger generation, who are opening fancy bars and restaurants in cities around the West Bank, actually prefer to do business with me.”
To succeed in a male-dominated business in a male-dominated society, Khoury has found support in the Pink Boots Society, a US-based organization aiming to assist, inspire and encourage women beer industry professionals.
In the past years, groups and events dedicated to support women in the craft brewing movement have popped up whole over the world, from the US and the UK to the Philippines and Rwanda.
And this actually appears to be a return to ancient times when beer brewing was a domestic activity. From ancient civilizations like Sumer and Egypt, through the Dark Ages, and well into the 16th century, historical evidence has shown that beer was made and sold almost entirely by women. But as societies shifted from an agricultural-based to an industrial-based economy, beer brewing left the privacy of the home and became another large-scale product run almost entirely by men.
But Khoury has already conquered the hearts of the visitors to the Taybeh brewery.
“Madees’s experience is remarkable. It is a wonderful success story that encourages our youth entrepreneurs, girls in particular, to develop creative ideas and to pursue their dreams,” said Renad Hamed, a participant at the latest Oktoberfest, which took place in late September.
“I am Muslim but I have a stall in a beer festival organized by Christians. I believe that we have to be open-minded and accept others. The Taybeh brewery produces a beer with zero alcohol for the Muslim population,” she added.
With a two-day eclectic selection of live music concerts and activities, this 12th edition of the Taybeh Oktoberfest again attracted thousands of visitors from whole over the world.
“I randomly heard in the hostel where I stay that there was a beer festival this weekend. I was eventually expecting to find a winery in the West Bank as I know they grow grapes; but I would have never expected to find a brewery. And it is even more surprising that a woman is running the business,” Myriam, a French tourist, told The Media Line.
“This is exactly what I want: to surprise people. We want to show a different Palestinian face, that we are normal people too, we want to celebrate life and we want to do the same things as other people in the world,” concluded Khoury.
With production of 600,000 liters a year, the Taybeh Brewery takes pride in being the first to put the West Bank on the global beer map. The adventure has inspired other homemade brewers. Since Taybeh Brewery opened, craft breweries have popped up across the region in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and recently in the Palestinian Authority.
Article written by Eloise Bollack
Reprinted with permission from The Media Line