Pairing beer and food has been the topic of a veritable crapload of books and blogs. The best beer writer ever, Michael Jackson, covered pairings in his Beer Companion*, among other places, so trying to top what's already out there may be an exercise in futility. That's not what I'm going to write about because despite my love for [the real] Michael Jackson, I honestly think the idea of pairing beer with specific dishes is a bit absurd. The beauty of beer is that it's disposable and it's wonderful. Most beers are made to be turned around quick and drunk fresh, so the idea of crafting an exquisitely snooty menu around a beer (or vice versa) just seems a bit silly.
Don't get me wrong; I love beer and I love food, so I love beer and food together, but the idea that one beer is better suited to a dish than another just strikes me as a bit off. What beer, I wonder, is more suited to listening to Highway 61 or Rocket to Russia? Best beer in the shower? What about the beer most suited to getting punched in the face?** They seem silly questions to me, when my instinct is to say: any beer. Any good beer is the right beer for the moment. There is a perception that beer is for the masses and not for the connoisseur. Both are true, and trying to make beer into wine by pairing it with food like wine misunderstands the appeal of beer. Beer is fantastic without imposing itself. Beer is fresh, beer is alive, good beer is about variety and a good beer is the perfect accompaniment to everything. Grains grow, we ferment their sugars, drink them, and the whole cycle starts again. So have a stout with your steak, have a stout with mussels. In fact, have a stout, and a bitter, and a dubbel with your steak. As it happens, beer comes in an ideal pint-sized bottle (or glass) so we're not really limited to finishing a six-serving bottle, like wine drinkers*** are.
*Michael Jackson's Beer Companion is probably one of the most interesting and complete books about beer, in my humble opinion. If you have not read it as a home brewer, someone who enjoys beer, or someone who enjoys anything of any sort, I highly recommend it.
**Miller Lite, obviously, would be the best choice for 'best beer to have right before getting punched in the face'
***I enjoy wine too but, I mean... honestly.