Yazan Karadsheh is wary of unannounced visitors. When a car without an appointment arrives in the outer yard of his factory, seven guard dogs surround it, barking furiously.
Karadsheh trudges out with three of his employees to check the source of the commotion, then calls off the canines to allow a visitor to make his way gingerly to what looks like a nondescript warehouse.
"It took two years just to get permission to build this place," he says as he opens a door labeled "Tasting Room." What lies beyond is stunning: a softly lighted, polished wooden space with two sets of bay windows, one overlooking a green-sloped valley, the other the austere metallic gray of the production floor.
Jordan, a Muslim country where alcohol use is tolerated but hardly embraced, isn't exactly the likeliest place to find a dedicated beer connoisseur. But Karadsheh is on a mission: to revolutionize tastes and customs in hostile terrain that just happens to be his homeland.
At the end of last year, he launched the country's first microbrewery, Carakale. On the long road to its first official brew, he battled everyone from foot-dragging bureaucrats to devout laborers who wanted nothing to do with his forbidden product.
The 29-year-old is in his element behind the bar, dispensing his brew with care, making sure the head is just so.
"This is where it all starts, this is my cave, my brain center, I come here, I have music on," he notes, mixing English and Arabic.
Karadsheh sniffs the amber-colored liquid and scans the contents with a discerning eye.
"This is what I call my whiskey ale," he says, sipping from the glass stein. "It has ripe banana scents on the nose. You'll get more body to it and more sweetness, a bit spicy, slight licorice notes, butterscotch, toffee."
A quick clink of the tankards, and he begins his story.
His path to becoming Jordan's pioneer microbrewer began at the University of Colorado, where Karadsheh dabbled with home-brewing kits while pursuing an engineering degree.
Stumbling upon a book on beers of the world, he learned that Jordan had no brew of its own. (Beer is produced here under license to the Dutch brewer Amstel.)
After graduation, he joined Halliburton, the energy and services conglomerate, and was dispatched to the mining town of Rock Springs, Wyo.
"I hated it," he recalls, describing a drab existence working in an oil field. Six weeks later, he says, he quit and got a job at What's Brewin', a home-brew store in Colorado. While there, he learned of the UC Davis Master Brewers Program. In 2006, he enrolled in the 18-week program, which offers students a formal qualification in brewing science. The prerequisite? Karadsheh smiles, his eyes taking in the beer's color in his glass. "An engineering degree."
"I started studying beer, going through the different parts, bioengineering, chemistry, heat exchangers, all the details you need to know to make your own brewery, the science, a bit of the history, the art of beer making, working with small craft stores," he says, naming mentors with whom he apprenticed, many of them medal winners at the Great American Beer Festival. He was honored himself in 2009.
"Yeah," he says, "I'm probably the first Arab to get a bronze at the festival."
Upon graduation, he returned to Colorado and found work at the Upslope Brewery in Boulder. An epiphany struck at an unlikely moment while he was showing a client around.
"The glycol pump exploded," he recalled, referring to a cooling mechanism. "Then the packaging line fell apart, and I had to give him the tour while running around and repairing everything, and that's the day I really felt on the right path."
By the end of the day, he had collapsed with exhaustion, but he knew one thing: "This is what I want to do the rest of my life."