Belgian Beers in Boulder at Rueben’s

I like Rueben’s Burger Bistro. For the right occasion.

Reuben's Burger BistroRueben’s, located on the corner of Walnut and Broadway in central Boulder, has been open since spring of 2010. It specializes not only in burgers but also in Belgian beer. The decor is all about biking. Apparently Rueben loves the letter B.

I have been to Rueben’s probably four or five times over the last year and a half. Each time I enjoy myself but don’t find that I have a big urge to return.

I don’t eat hamburgers so the burger aspect of the joint doesn’t drive me to visit. I do, however, appreciate good beer and excellent happy hours. Rueben’s has both.

Belgium is considered a beer mecca and so having a local restaurant specialize in Belgian beer is a treat. I love the somewhat sweet, extra-malty flavor of many Belgian beers. However, I must admit whenever I peruse the Rueben’s beer menu I have a hard time finding a beer I want to order. Here’s why.

Rueben’s has nine Belgian beers on tap plus two rotating special beers. They also have 39 bottled beers from Belgium, which gives their patrons an excellent choice.

The problem comes in when I actually scan down the menu. The reason I drink beer, in part, is for the social aspects of sitting with a group of friends. A beer is a nice accompaniment to casual conversation. So I tend to like flavorful beers in larger pours without too much alcohol.

Of the nine draft beers on the Rueben’s menu, only three are 5% alcohol or lower – two wheat beers and a pilsner (the well-known Stella Artois), none of which are my preferred type. Of the 39 Belgian bottled beers on the menu, only four are 5% alcohol or lower and all four of those are “lambic” beers, naturally fermented drinks that tend to be sort of like ciders with a sour taste.

So if you are not in the mood for a lambic, a wheat beer, or the mass-market Stella Artois, you are looking at a beer over 5% in alcohol. Raise your limits a little and you can find another nine beers below 7% alcohol but the remaining 41 beers are 7% alcohol or higher.

Strike two, for me, is the reality that the draft beers on the Rueben’s menu are in small pours and expensive. Of the nine draft beers, two come in 40 cl glasses, two come in 33 cl (similar to bottled beers in the US), and the remaining five are in pours smaller than a regular beer. Take price into account – only eight of the of the 48 Belgian beers are under $8.00 – and you are not getting what the beer community calls “session beers”, beers that can be consumed casually over time with friends.

It is true, though, that Rueben’s happy hour (what they call “halfy hour”) makes life a whole lot better. All appetizers, draft beers, wine, and cocktails are half off from 3-6 PM daily.

So my recommendation? Don’t come to Rueben’s Burger Bistro to hang out for a few hours with your friends. The beers are too high-octane and expensive. Instead, come every few months for their fantastic halfy hour, be courageous by trying a few beers you have never had before, and make it a short, memorable evening.

Editor’s Note: We were contacted after this article was posted by Rueben, the owner of Rueben’s. He rightly pointed out that Belgian beers might not be for everyone but those who like them won’t mind the higher alcohol content or higher price point. He also told us “We have a huge new tap system currently being built that will expand our drafts to 42, it should be ready in about 3 weeks.  We will continue to focus on Belgians but will have many more price points (and lower alcohol beers) as well as having a great permanent selection of craft beers.” Thanks for the response, Rueben.