Beer is a drink with a long, rich history that can be traced back thousands of years, especially in the Middle East. Today’s Middle Eastern beer brands keep the tradition alive with a wide variety of products for us to enjoy. I think that the occasional beer is a good way to relax, so long as you pick the right one for you. With so many different kinds available and new ones debuting all the time, it shouldn’t be too hard, but here are a few popular options to get you started.
Lebanese Beer, Since 1931
Brasserie Almaza is one of the most popular beer manufacturers in Lebanon, though today they’re distributed in more than two dozen countries. Not bad for a beer company started by a few friends in 1931!
The flagship beer is the eponymous Almaza—a pilsner beer that’s been in production since 1933. Consumers have grown fond of its crisp bite and sweet, mellow flavor. I’ve heard people describe it as tasting slightly fruity. Several variations are available, such as Light, Special Dark, and Radler—the latter being defined by its lemon twist. Additionally, Brasserie Almaza offers an extra strong beer called Rex, a second pilsner option called Al Rayess, and Laziza—a line of fruit flavored, non-alcoholic beers
Lebanese Beer, Since 1974
Akram Kassalty established the beverage brand, Kassalty Chtaura, in Lebanon in 1974. Since then, they have produced a wide variety of beverages in the intervening years. Their most popular by far is Beirut Beer, but they also offer other alcohols, such as wine and vodka.
Beirut Beer is an all-natural pilsner beer that comes in many different sizes, as well as in a light variety with fewer calories and lower alcohol content. An interesting feature here is the pull off caps, which make opening a Beirut Beer quicker and easier than using a bottle opener. Kassatly Chtaura also offers the lagers Buzz Beer and Buzz Beer Strong. True to its name, Strong features twice the alcohol content of a regular Buzz Beer.
Lebanese Beer, Since 2006
961 Beer got a more recent start than many brands on this list, as their founder Mazen Hajjar officially launched the venture in July of 2006 in Lebanon, after brewing up test batches in his own kitchen to see if the whole thing was viable! The last decade has been kind to 961 Beer, as they’ve begun to earn recognition and win awards for their products.
961 Beer offers seven different beers: 961 American IPA, 961 Lager, 961 Lebanese Pale Ale, 961 Porter, 961 Red Ale, 961 Witbier, and Lebanese Brew—a light lager. With such a variety they have something for just about everyone!
Mazen Hajjar appeared on TEDxBeirut back in 2011. Check out his amazing story here:
Lebanese Beer, Since 2014
Debuting in 2014, Colonel Beer is a Batroun based company that specializes in microbrews. Not content to sell a beer in stores alone, owner Jamil Haddad launched a brewpub and restaurant, where patrons could have a meal and enjoy beer fresh from the source.
Colonel offers both lager and black Irish beers as bottled options, and those are what you’re more likely to encounter if you’re shopping in stores. If you venture to their pub you can get a much broader selection, including a passion fruit brew, an IPA, a red Irish, and a lychee fruit brew. I admire their experimental attitude, but I wish they’d make their more unique products available at retail!
Palestinian Beer, Since 1994
The Taybeh Brewing Company is a Palestinian microbrewery established in 1994 by brothers David and Nadim Khoury, with the goal of introducing new beers into their home country while adding to the local economy.
Today, their flagship product is Taybeh Golden Beer—a German-style lager that they handcraft in small batches. Other beers in their lineup include their Dark, Amber, Light, and White varieties. For those cutting back, they have a non-alcoholic brew as well!
Egyptian Beer, Since 1987
In business since 1897, the Egypt-based Al Ahram Beverages Company has always had one flagship: Stella Beer. While the ownership of the company has changed hands several times, and they have now been purchased by the Heineken Group, Stella Beer has remained the same.
Stella is a lager beer with a light, clean taste. Also on offer from Al Ahram is Sakara Gold, a beer styled after European brews that is slightly lower in alcohol content than Stella—a fine choice if you’re ever in Egypt and you want a twist on a classic.
How to Pour Beer in Two Easy Steps
To some, a good pour may seem like child’s play, but many of us still have trouble getting our beer to pour just right without reducing it to a foamy mess! I myself am guilty of the occasional bad pour, but the principles behind a good pour are simple.
Hold the glass at a 45 degree angle and pour the beer towards the center of the glass (i.e. don’t lean the beer on the rim, hold it a few inches past there).
When the glass is about halfway full, turn it back upright as you pour—this helps form a “head” of foam at the top of the glass. If you pour too quickly the foam head will be too large, so try to take your time and aim for about half an inch of foam. Conversely, pouring too slowly will yield no foam at all, so you may need to practice a few times before you get the speed figured out.
There are countless beers in the world today, but many of the best can be found in the Middle East. You don’t have to visit Lebanon or Egypt to have a good beer, as the global retail market today lets anyone get their hands on many of the products I’ve discussed here. So, regardless of where you’re having your next get together, consider a Middle Eastern beer for your refreshment. It never hurts to have a few drinks with friends while you’re unwinding, and – for those who don’t partake – many of these same companies offer non-alcoholic options! No one needs to be left out.
To fine local Middle Eastern markets that may sell all or some of these brands, check out our Market Directory for a complete list of Middle Eastern Markets in Massachusetts.