Matching the perfect beer will enhance any dining experience. Picking the wrong beer could ruin a delicious dish. It takes great practice and knowledge to make the ideal pairing. There are three principles to follow when making a perfect pairing between a food dish and a glass of beer.
1) Match Strength: You should always try to pair a strong beer with a healthy dish, a light beer with a delicate dish. Assess the richness of the food and its cooking method, and then pick a beer based on its alcoholic strength, hop bitterness, sweetness, etc., to create a similar match. Order a glass of pale ale with a heavier appetizer. You can match light dishes with lagers, roasted foods with amber lager or pale ale, and a heartier dish with a stout. Avoid very hoppy beers when eating spicy dishes as it may make the stinging worse.
2)Find Harmonies: Examine the food ingredients and their preparations to find familiar flavors and aromas found in the beer. It's a simple principle, but it takes familiarity with food preparation techniques and the ability to pinpoint critical flavors and aromas in both the food and beer to do the pairing work out well.
3)Contrast Elements: As mentioned, you want to create a balance. The beer should not overwhelm the food, and vice versa. This is where finding contrast qualities come in. Sweet and fatty foods can be balanced by the level of hop bitterness, alcohol content, and carbonation, and spicy foods are balanced by the sweetness and maltiness of the beer.
It is essential to understand the characteristics of both the beer and food dishes before putting the two together. Everything is a learning process, and trial and error is the best approach to building great pairings. Be ambitious next time you're ordering up a drink and see what works best for you.