If someone ordered an Indian Pale Ale with their cheese, would that be so wrong? No. It's all about personal preference after all. Wine always has its place beside any aged, dairy delicacy—or other less moldy edibles—but a perfect lager or ale can stand up to any red or white vino when pairing food and drink.
"Beer is a great match for food because of the complexity of its flavors, its ability to provide refreshment and to interact with many food flavors," says Marc Stroobandt, master beer sommelier for the Food and Beer Consultancy, UK. "Even before the meal, beer already is doing its work for food pairing as the hops stimulate the appetite."
When pairing beer and food, it all comes down to matching the food's flavors to the flavors of the beers. We went directly to the experts to get their advice on mating the best brews with your favorite bites.
Beer and Sushi
What better way to wash down this tasty fare than with a bottle of Kirin Ichiban. Check out this video on how to make the perfect sushi to accompany this pure 100% malt beer.
Cheese, Sandwiches, Pizza
Wine and cheese is a universally-known pair, but what most people may not know is that beer is one of the best matches for cheese. "Wine may cover up some of the flavors in cheese while the carbonation in beer creates a lighter acidity and lifts the fats in the cheese off the palate," says The Beer Sommelier, Matt Simpson. "Whether it's a straight-up cheese platter, pizza, sandwich, goat cheese salad, almost any beer is a go when it comes to cheese.
Recommended: All beer (Note: for stronger cheeses like goat and blue, grab a darker lager or ale.) Try Hennepin Saison (Belgium)
Chicken, Seafood, Pasta
The one rule with dishes like chicken, fish, salads or pastas are that you don't want to overpower them with a beer. Therefore, lighter is better. A light German lager or Belgian Saison with chicken or fish is perfect. (If creams or sauces are added you need a heavy, richer beer.) Pasta is slightly more versatile but still pairs well with similar brews like blonde ales and German or American wheat ales.
Recommended: Belgian Blonde ale; German Hefeweizen; American Hefeweizen or wheat beer (as long as it is not too hoppy). Try Duvel (Belgium), Widmer Hefeweizen (US), Blue Moon (US)
Frites and Fried Foods
Even if the Belgians make the best frites in the world and are the largest consumers per person, those salty potato sticks are still an American staple cuisine. In general, fries (or frites) are light in flavor profile, so opt for a brew that will help cleanse the palate. "In general ask for a beer to cleanse your palate without washing away all the salty flavors, cutting through and bringing out the taste of the food," says Stroobandt, who prefers a nice Stella Artois with his frites. The same recommendation goes for most fried, salty dishes.
Recommended: Light German Lager, Marzen-style (more malt); Octoberfest brews; Belgian Blonde ale or lager. Try Samuel Adams Octoberfest (US), Stella Artois (Belgium), Leffe Blond (Belgium)