People travel from across the world to witness and explore the numerous religious and historical sites of both Jerusalem and Bethlehem, of which there are enough to fill several days. Since Carrie and I had both previously visited Jerusalem (Bethlehem would be new for us both) we were free to explore beyond the standard tourist trail. Since we’re fans of craft beer and live with a limited offering in Amman, Jordan we explored the area in a way that was less traditional from your typical visit.
Our goal was to explore as much of the craft beer scene in both Jerusalem and Bethlehem during our long weekend. Supporting local businesses like craft breweries is a great way to contribute to local entrepreneurs when traveling. Your purchases of their products support the livelihoods of the local community you are visiting.
We based ourselves in Jerusalem for several days and traveled to Bethlehem for a day trip. During our day trip, we squeezed in a visit to one historical landmark, the Church of the Nativity. The church contains the grotto which is said to be the birthplace of Jesus and as you can imagine is a very popular draw for tourists from across the world. After we saw the church and walked around Bethlehem, and checked out Palestine’s craft beer scene. More on that later.
We spent most of our trip in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, for us, our trip coincided with Shabbat and thus the closest brewery to Jerusalem, Shapiro in Bet Shemesh was closed. So instead of visiting a brewery, we found bars offering a wide selection of beers from across both Israel and Palestine. Here’s where we recommend you go in both Jerusalem and Palestine after a day of sightseeing to sample the craft beer scene.
BeerBazaar - Jerusalem
One of the most popular places to drink craft beer in Jerusalem is BeerBazaar. The Jerusalem location is in the Mahane Yehuda Market (there are several other locations throughout Israel, including their brewery) and functions as a bar and a shop, which has over 100 Israeli craft beers to buy. We stopped by on our first night and had their IPA and wheat beers, both really good. The cozy location is a great place to drink BeerBazaar’s own beer and buy craft beers from across Israel to take back to your hotel or Airbnb. The six-pack deal beats any other nearby shop with a pick any six bottles for 79 shekels (not including tax). You can also purchase individual bottles to take away too. The small location can get crowded in the evening and during our visit, the power was out so we couldn’t eat and thus only stayed for the one beer.
Time Out Bar - Jerusalem
This was the first bar I checked out in Jerusalem while I waited for Carrie to finish work. Tucked away in the narrow alleyways of the Mahane Yehuda Market, Time Out has a decent selection of craft beer on tap from Israel including Alexander, Shapiro, and Herzl. One downside is that the food options are limited here, or they were during my visit.
Hatch - Jerusalem
Also in the Mahane Yehuda Market, Hatch is a microbrewery that brews 4 different beers (ESB, IPA, Stout, and Pilsner). However, during our visit, they only had three of them available, but the ones we tried (ESB and Pilsner) were excellent. The small bar also serves food! The bar gets crowded, so arrive early if you want a seat. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of beer, the food looked delicious and seemed to be a big reason people came.
American Colony Hotel - Jerusalem
Despite occupation and the various struggles that accompany it, Palestine has several craft breweries of its own! While chances are slim you’ve had it outside of Palestine and Israel, definitely try it when you’re here. We stopped by the historic American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem to grab a pint of Taybeh Golden. The refreshing beer was just what we needed after walking through the Old City in the rain. The hotel lobby is a great place to take a break from sightseeing and grab a beer from Palestine.
Taybeh Brewing Company is by far the largest producer in Palestine and has a huge selection we sadly didn’t try during this visit, but since we have plans to visit the brewery later this year, we will check out the remaining options! Taybeh can be found in several shops, bars, and restaurants in Jerusalem.
Peace Center Restaurant & Bar - Bethlehem
After checking out the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem we needed somewhere to rest for a minute and settled on the Peace Center Restaurant and Bar in Manger Square. We aren’t ones to visit a restaurant smack in the middle of the tourist bubble, but we came here as we saw they sold Palestinian craft beer, including Taybeh Golden on draft and Taybeh Dark (bottle only) and they had WiFi.
There was another point to our stop though. Many people visit Bethlehem as a day-trip, just as we did, and while it’s great you’re visiting, it, unfortunately, has less of an impact on the local community than if you had stayed the night. So one way to contribute to Bethlehem if you aren’t staying the night is to stop and have lunch, and a local beer from Palestine. This way you’re spending money in the destination and contributing to and supporting the local community.
The Walled Off Hotel - Bethlehem
While Palestine’s most well-known craft beer might be Taybeh, there are two lesser-known options, Shepherds, brewed by Birzeit Brewery and Wise Men Choice Beer of Beit Sahour. We had Shepherds Blonde and Wise Men Choice Pale Ale at The Walled Off Hotel, which should definitely be included in your visit to Bethlehem. Both beers were excellent and I'm looking forward to my next visit as both Shepherds and Wise Men Choice Beer have other beers to try, including seasonal options!
The Walled Off Hotel, located right across the street from the wall that now surrounds much the West Bank is a popular destination with a restaurant, gallery, and a museum dedicated to the education of the wall around the West Bank and life under occupation. It’s well worth the visit, and if you stop at the restaurant support those living under occupation by drinking Palestinian craft beer.
Much of the artwork in the lobby of the hotel is by the famous artist Banksy. The lobby restaurant, which has a great selection of food and local craft beers also includes a spectacular view of the wall and the graffiti that covers it.
For first-time visitors, or even repeat visitors to Jerusalem and Bethlehem there is of course a lot to see and do. We’ve provided a list of places where you can not only rest your legs after a long day of walking and sightseeing but also sample local craft beer and supporting local businesses. We only scratched the surface of craft beer in both Israel and Palestine and will be sure to incorporate a brewery or two during our next visit.
All photography by Albert Bond
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