Out of over 150 beer breweries that have opened in Israel over the last two decades, one stands out more than others. It is the first ever brewery to open in Israel's Arab sector.
The Nazareth Beer Brewery was opened in 2016 by Amir Elouti and Basel Massad, two friends who studied electrical engineering, and then began working in the high-tech industry. The two realized they both loved beer very much, and decided to make a business out of their shared interest.
As a result, Elouti and Massad enrolled in a beer brewing course in northern Israel, and began experimenting with recipes every week in a small warehouse in Nazareth, until they found a combination they both enjoyed.
To make sure their recipes were developed enough, they invited other friends to test out the beers, which is now being sold at the Nazareth Beer Brewery, with a original third recipe currently in development.
The brewery currently makes beer from American wheat – producing a dark and bitter beer with a 5% alcohol content, and a brown ale beer with 5% alcohol content. The beers are only sold at the brewery itself.
“We wanted to open a brewery that will have the name of the city where we grew up because there still aren’t any Arab breweries in Israel,” one of the owners says. “Israel is aware of some beers made in the Palestinian Authority, but we realized a brewery is an opportunity to start a new project in Nazareth, which will also be culinary attraction for tourists, rather than a religious one.”
When asked how they came up with the idea for the brewery, Amir says: “Basel and I would go out every evening to drink and have fun, but to do that we would have to leave Nazareth, because most businesses only serve commercial beer brands. We started going to bars in Tel Aviv, and saw the amazing variety of beer we didn’t know existed.
“I come from the culinary world, my parents own a patisserie in Nazareth, and I think beer is something you need to drink every day,” Massad says. “Just when were finishing our studies the new trend of brewing beer at home started, and we decided we should make our own beer.”
He adds: “We took a course in a northern Israeli kibbutz and began brewing beer at home. We also read several books about how to brew more professionally, and our beers began getting better with time, until we decided to open our own business.”
In 2016, the two rented a 100 square meter shop in Nazareth, and brought with them cooking pots and beer fermentation buckets. “We brewed 100 liters in every batch – 250 bottles overall. We brewed once per week and made 1,000 bottles per month. We saw the demand rising, our friends were enthusiastic, and we decided to expand our business,” Elouti says.
Right before the start of the COVID pandemic, the two decided to open a bigger brewery, and rented a large plot in Nazareth overlooking a vista of the city. “We imported equipment to brew 1,000 liters, ten times the amount we could previously,” Elouti explaines. “We also decided to open a visitor center, but COVID came as soon as we received our license to open our brewery.”
Massad said the two did not expect the pandemic. “It was awful, we took out a big loan and had no income due to COVID. We also weren’t eligible for compensations from the government because our business was new. These years were horrible, and we didn’t get government aid for our business, we were almost bankrupt – all of our savings from our previous jobs was used to pay our loan.”
They resumed full activity only over the current summer, but are now facing another problem - many businesses that were regular clients of the brewery did not survive the pandemic and closed down.
“Most of our costumers in Nazareth were bars, restaurants, guest houses, hotels and tourist attractions. The brewery is now only open on Saturdays until a constant flow of tourists returns.”
When asked what their families think about them making beer for a living, Massad says: “Since we come from Christian families, we have no issues with making beer, our families encourage us because we opened a new business in Nazareth, which is also a tourist attraction. Our families love what we do.”
Despite being owners of the brewery, the two still continue working in high-tech. “We love what we do in high-tech, but also want our brewery to become a profitable business,” Elouti says. “It’s nice to see your business growing, but we’re not there yet.
He added: “Our goal is to grow in northern Israel, then go international. This is the reason we decided to call it Nazareth beer, it helps with promotion. We also want to someday to stage a beer festival in Nazareth.”
“Usually, people our age don’t get promoted much in the high-tech industry,” Elouti says. “High-tech is very stressful, and companies prefer younger people, because they demand less and are more motivated. That’s why we started thinking about what comes next.”
They say they would like to expand their clientele to the rest of Israel. “We have customers all over Israel, but a small order isn’t profitable for us to deliver to remote locations like Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva,” Elouti says.
“It’s not easy getting a new beer into a new bar, which has to be provided special equipment like taps and glasses, and there’s also a massive competition. But some of our beers can be found in Tel Aviv and Haifa, though most are sold in our brewery in Nazareth.”