6 top beers in the Middle East and North Africa

6 top beers in the Middle East and North Africa

Despite having a rep for being near teetotal, these six destinations are brewing up some surprisingly decent bottles of the brown stuff

Think traveling in the Middle East and North Africa means having to forego a nice, cold glass of beer? Think again.

Here's a quick run down of the regions' six best brews, along with some testimony from their victims/fans.

6. Jordan: Petra

Everything starts looking rosy -- especially your cheeks -- after a pint of Petra. One of those rare, wild and, as many Jordanians attest, almost undrinkable local beers that exist the world over, Petra beer is the special brew of the Middle East.

At a staggering 8% ABV, it's the second most popular beer in Jordan after Amstel, but the latter’s Dutch roots will always make it a foreign import, despite being brewed in the country.

Johnny Shaw, 37, a student and freelance graphic designer, says, “If a visit to the ruins of Petra didn't knock you off your feet, a few cans of this beer will.

“While the label promises a ‘Taste of the Rosy City’ it’s probably not what you had in mind while you were stumbling around the dusty ruins in the Jordanian sun.”

Not enough alcohol for you? We suggest you crack open a bottle of Petra Premium, which rocks a head-numbing 10% alcohol content.

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5. Morocco: Casablanca

Here's looking at you, kid. Morocco offers a choice of four beers, including its locally brewed Heineken, but Casablanca is undoubtedly the country’s most famous –- it's even served in the Moroccan pavilion at Disney World's Epcot Center.

A pale, light lager with a solid 5% ABV, Casablanca takes the edge off many a sweaty day in the souks or hiking in the Atlas Mountains.

“Casablanca is a slightly dark, hoppy lager that delivers a distinct punch on acquaintance. It’s not a bad drop,” says Jon Rhodes, 38, a press officer.

“It mainly distinguishes itself from the competition by virtue of its slightly bigger bottle size, affording any respectable beer aficionado the chance to actually wet their palate as opposed to dampening.”

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4. Israel: Goldstar

Despite being mass produced, there's nothing common about Goldstar. Coming in at a contentious fourth place, this fantastic Israeli beer has been brewed in the country since the 1950s.

Goldstar is the granddaddy of Israeli beer, a favorite throughout the country -- and this despite a burgeoning craft beer scene in Israel.

“Israel sets itself apart by having by far the most interesting commonly drunk beer in the world,” enthuses Steve Hynd, 27, a former brewer and one-time West Bank resident.

“You’ll find it in almost every bar in the country and while it is a dark lager, in reality is closer to amber in color. It puts mass produced beer to shame.”

We can’t agree more. At 4.9% ABV, both its straight pilsner and dark ale alternative are best drunk cold, bought from a street-side bottle shop and consumed on the beach in Tel Aviv before a raucous night out on the tiles.

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3. Egypt: Stella/Sakara

Sakara Gold, though brewed in Egypt, is owned by Heineken. A joint third for these two Egyptian beers, which have provoked countless debates in many a Cairo expat bar.

No relation to its Belgian cousin, Stella is Egypt’s oldest beer -- brewed since the 19th century –- and is best served in a tall bottle and poured leisurely into a pint glass.

Its ABV of 4.5% does the trick, easily taking the edge off a sweaty day of fighting touts, taxi drivers and traffic in any of Egypt’s hectic cities.

Its rival, Sakara Gold has a slightly lower 4% ABV but is also brewed by Al Ahram brewery, now owned by Heineken. Like Stella, it's a refreshing, light pilsner served in both bottles and cans.

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2. Palestine: Taybeh

Brew master Nadim Khoury holds up the four varieties of his popular Palestinian beer, Taybeh. Taybeh is as loved in the West Bank as it's elusive everywhere else, but whether served in a Ramallah bar, or tracked down in a back street off license, it truly is an excellent beer.

The creation of brew master Nadim Khoury, Taybeh comes in four forms: a larger, a dark ale, an amber beer and a non-alcoholic, and is best drunk at the source -– at the brewery in the village that bears its name.

“Taybeh Golden is undoubtedly the most common, a crisp refreshing lager that is a perfect accompaniment to a warm evening relaxing with friends,” enthuses former brewer Hynd.

“But if you’re looking for something more sophisticated, try Taybeh Dark: it’s a delicious complex beer with strong powerful roasted barley.”

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1. Lebanon: Almaza

Amazing Almaza. Try saying that 10 times in a row after a few cans. In at number one is the king of Middle Eastern beers and the staple of any trip to Beirut, the one-and-only Almaza.

At a low 4% ABV, Almaza may be a light and fairly standard pilsner, but served ice cold at a Hamra Street café on a warm summer evening, it amounts to far more than that.

“Almaza tastes like a Lebanese summer night would if you could bottle it, with a side of nuts,” said Beirut native Karl Baz, 33.

“The beer itself is great. Sure, it’s light, but we love it because it’s become a defining characteristic of our culture.”

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