The sound of loose gravel crunching beneath my car tires disturbed the peaceful country air as I pulled into the parking lot. I could feel the tension in my back after endless left and right turns along a zig zag of Wallonian country roads which defy all sense of direction. After exiting a stretch of treacherous Wallonian highway, my brain short-circuited trying to conceptualize this final leg of my pilgrim’s route. The kind of leg the GPS says is a mere 15km… the brain enthusiastically interprets as 5… but you’d throw the gauntlet down at the feet of the grinning Devil afterwards and swear it was 50.
Nevertheless, I had finally arrived. Exactly where I had arrived was a village called Provedroux, a tiny speck in the Salm River region of the Ardennes, just south of two larger Salm villages called Vielsalm and Salmchateau, two names I don’t expect you to know either. There are only two things that would bring me to a place like this. Hiking and Beer. Good thing for me, I brought my hiking shoes and an even better thing was this wasn’t a parking lot in front of some cow feed store. It was a brewery.
The brewery was Brasserie La THAree and yes the capitalization is intentional. The THA stands for Traileurs de Haute-Ardennes or Trailers (Trail Runners) of the Haute-Ardennes. This seemed appropriate to the activity of the day, which would be trail-running at the pace of trail-walking. It is interesting to note that the word lopen in Netherlands Dutch means walking while in Belgian Dutch it means running, so I feel there is some liberty for ambiguity, despite this being in the French-speaking part of Belgium where there is none. Setting all of that confusion aside, La THAree adds extract of Douglas fir to their beers, bringing truth to the phrase all beer lovers have spoken at least once in their lives…”This beer tastes like drinking a pine tree.” After the hike, when I indulged in the Triple, it did resemble more an IPA than a typical Belgian triple, albeit much softer than the over-the-top pine tree experience that many American IPA’s are. Alas, I am getting ahead of myself, because at this point, I was only just buying the beer and stashing it in my trunk for later. First I had to do some trail-something.
This hike kicked off my Labor Day weekend here in Belgium. A weekend of Beer and Battle of the Bulge. This hike includes a 2nd brewery at its furthest point, Brasserie Lupulus, located in another village no bigger than a fruit fly’s knuckle. Beer is such an institution in Belgium that these breweries essentially put their villages on the map. Over the next few days, I would witness the good and the bad of these rural businesses, but beer, while no guarantee of success, certainly seems like one of the best bets of survival.
|Starting/Ending Point||Brasserie La THAree|
|My Moving Time||3h 34m|
Its Not Just a Beer, It’s a Journey
Neither did the Germans hesitate to call upon villagers to perform all kinds of onerous tasks… In Provedroux men were requisitioned to hack dead GIs from the ice with pickaxes and bury them.The Unknown Dead: Civilians in the Battle of the Bulge by Peter Schrijvers (2005)
Even villages like Provedroux could not escape the clutches of the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Much of this region was part of Germany prior to WWI and the entire campaign in Eastern Belgium was fraught with concern over the loyalties of the civilians from both the Americans and the Germans. Despite the poor treatment from the Germans, some locals argued the Americans were no better.
They “acted like savages,” a civilian from Provedroux corroberated, “and we regard their behavior towards friends with severe bitterness.”The Unknown Dead: Civilians in the Battle of the Bulge by Peter Schrijvers (2005)
I discovered these references as I was researching a follow-up post to this one, so I was unaware of the ghosts that were following me along the lane leading through Provedroux. I wonder now if descendants of these witnesses were still living there re-telling these stories. Provedroux, as small as it is, is by no means without its village charm. There is the provocative Church of St. Peter & Paul and the Chateau-farm Flamang.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of medieval village life behind, the surrounding nature is still tauntingly sparse of leaves. The last vestiges of Winter grey and brown are still lingering. But nature is nonetheless versatile in her beauty. I was enamored this weekend by certain trees, which even without leaves are elegant.
Then immediately perhaps my favorite double-track trail shot of the day…
Besides the double-track shots, my favorite forest scenes are those dank, shady fir tree areas with a lot of mossy undergrowth. I simply love the almost cathedral-like openness under the canopy and the emerald glory of them.
And the trails that run through them are also a joy.
These photos probably could be taken any place in the world where there are forests of fir trees, but in my emotional and mental database, a forest like this embodies the Battle of the Bulge like no other. I can’t look at these trees and not think of December 1944 and January 1945.
Emerging from the emerald forest, it is now over open grazing land towards the village of Courtil.
Brasserie Lupulus has quite a respectable reach outside of the region, as I have found it often in my local supermarket and beer distributor. It is one of the big three local breweries that rule the regional beer offerings at local restaurants; the others are Brasserie de Bellevaux and Brasserie Detrembleur. However, when you come upon the brewery in this small village, it really feels like a hidden gem. A good time for lunch and the first beer of the day.
Back out of the trail, another great double-track segment leaving Courtil.
There was one intersection where I wanted to go right and not left. Below was right.
Left would follow some uninteresting section, but ultimately bring me to the Way of the Cross leading up to the hidden Chapelle Notre-Dame des Malades, dating from 1850.
Following the chapel, the weather started to improve dramatically. As if on cue, I was visited by a most welcome creature.
This is the European Peacock, perhaps the most beautiful of the common butterflies of Western Europe.
Eventually the hike reaches the village of Rogery. From here the hike unfortunately is less interesting as it follows the main road between villages, meaning you are sharing it with the occasional car or tractor.
But a couple kilometers later, you are on the final scenic stretch back to Brasserie La THAree.
Brasserie La THAree
The brewery also has organized hikes which they can guide. For more information please go to their website.
Beer, Butterflies, and Hiking. Spring is here and this was a great way to kick off the serious Beer & Hike season. Sadly, not much for Battle of the Bulge lore, but those are coming in the next two hikes. Trust me. In the meantime, there was a serenity here. You can see evidence of activity on the trails but I passed no one outside the villages the entire day except for the butterflies. My apologies to Brasserie La THAree for not taking a beer photo of their beer in a glass, but I can assure them that I enjoyed their unique spin on the Triple. What better inspiration for a Beer & Hike than a Beer inspired by trails and fir trees, regardless of whether it is running or walking, or in Dutch lopen or lopen.
2 thoughts on “Beer & Hike: Brasserie La THAree & Lupulus”
I would have a hard time picking my favorite double-track photo here. But the one you favor definitely cuts the mustard. No bigger than a fruit fly’s knuckle? As someone who has checked out most of that creature, you are definitely qualified to make the comparison! Great post!
Great post, Matthew! 🔝
LikeLiked by 1 person