The trend among beer aficionados (and yes we have plenty of them these days) is to go for the big, overblown, Monster Truck style Imperial this or that. This is great if you like that style and/or you are just enjoying a beer on its own. But when you sit down to a meal and look to pair that 450 V-8 Monsterbrew up with just about anything, say your crab cake, burger or _____________(fill in the blank), you may feel as though it got run over, to say the least.
This is not the case with all beers of course, and so we should keep a few points in mind when making a recommendation for a beer and food pairing.
One of the primary rules would have to be to not let the beer overpower the food. You want something that will compliment and balance what is on the plate, not rooster-tail through it with flaming engines.
Try to balance the level of sweetness and spice (or bitterness) in the beer with what is on the plate.
Richer foods tend to be complimented by hopped-lagers and other mildly-malty beers, while spicy work best with something low on the bitterness scale.
IPAs and Pilsners tend to work well with pub food such as burgers, chicken and the like as the slightly elevated bitterness cuts through the rich style of these dishes.
Belgian ales tend to work well with Asian dishes as the elevated fruitiness and sweetness in many will balance against any spice in the food.
Sweet food with sweet beers, just don’t over power the food with the beer.
The Imperial Stouts, rich Porters and other full-bodied ales, including barley wines, are great with desserts, but it can be a little tricky getting the right combination.
Find beers that have distinguished, but not overpowering, flavors, and you will be on track.