Beer can be just as complex as any wine. So, what do you look for in beer? First, take a whiff. The aroma should have a pleasant grainy quality, mild floral or a hoppy aroma. Next, focus on the flavor. Is it earthy, yeasty or spicy? Is it bitter or sweet? In addition to the aroma and flavor, pay attention to the body or thickness. Some beers will have a weighty feel in your mouth. After you swallow, think about whether the beer leaves a pleasant aftertaste. None of these qualities necessarily mean that one beer is better than another. It's just fun to try to identify the differences among beers and decide which kinds you prefer. After all, the best beer of all is the one you like to drink.
Pairing beer with food can also be very complex and not much information is available on this subject. To help you find pairings for food and beer, here is a general breakdown on the various types of beer popular today....
Lager or Pilsner
By far the most popular of beers--lagers are fully hopped and have subtle tones of maltiness. Though the styles are diverse as the stars, lagers are lighter in flavor and body than the other types of beers. Thanks to great marketing Anheuser Busch, Miller, Coors, and others, people in America drink lager more than any other beer, spirit or wine. Pilsners were originally brewed in Pilsner, Czech Republic, but now Pilsner referes to pale, light lager beer. We like to pair this type with seafood, fresh fish, and chicken. Lagers also tend to have fewer calories.
Ales usually have a fuller flavor and body than lagers or pilsner. The length of time the malt is roasted determines the color and flavor of the ale. Pale ales have malts that are dried rather than roasted, thus they have a light gold or copper color and crisp, lighter flavor. Amber ales and red ales have malts that are roasted longer to give it a smoky or reddish color. Pale Ales generally pair with seafood, grilled steaks or burgers; Amber ales with salmon or pork. Red Ales with hearty venison, lamb, or mutton.
Porters are made with malts that have been roasted for a long time. Typically porters have a less pronounced hop flavor and slightly sweet but rich flavor. They are usually dark or brownish like cola. Porters also pair well with grilled steaks, and burgers.
Originally brewed only in the autumn in Germany (it means "strong beer"). Bocks color range from gold to black. They are usually stronger in flavor, body, bitterness, and sometimes alcohol than other beers. This is a good dessert beer, goes well with baked cheesecakes and richer desserts.
Wheat beer or Heffeweizen
A beer made from malted wheat that has a sweet lager flavor. Usually has light to medium body, with hints of fruit and yeast. Typically served with a lemon wedge. Good with salads, fruits, and cheeses.
Usually a dark rich beer, almost black, with full body and flavors. Sometimes having hints of coffee or root beer on the finish. This beer pairs well with almost any dessert.