Beer: A fermented (typically carbonated) drink made from grain and flavored with hops.
Ale: Believe it or not there is no legal definition of “ale” in the United States. So, let's move to Wikipedia. “Ale is brewed from malted barley using a warm-fermentation with a strain of brewers' yeast. The yeast will ferment the beer quickly, giving it a sweet, full bodied and fruity taste. Most ales contain hops, which help preserve the beer and impart a bitter herbal flavor that balances the sweetness of the malt.”
Lager: Compliments of Wikipedia again: “Lager is a type of beer that is fermented and conditioned at low temperatures. Pale Lager is the most widely consumed and commercially available style of beer in the world. Bock, Pilsner and Marzen are all styles of lager.”
Now let's talk about food with beer. First and foremost, don't be hamstrung by opinions of others. Drink and eat what pleases you. The days of aloof and steadfast pairing rules are over. Consider these pointers as a starting point. Experiment and see what you like. Search the internet for great pairing suggestions.
Pale Ales: Match up well with salads, light appetizers and seafood.
IPAs: Known for their strong hoppiness. This beer stands up well to spicy foods. Also goes well with pizza, pork and BBQ.
Wheat Beers: Fruit, lettuce and grain salads, and desserts,
Amber Ales: This delicious brew goes with anything, in my humble opinion.
Stouts and Porters: These dark and rich beers go well with any meat dish. Also pair beautifully with chocolatey desserts, assuming you still have room!
Give different flavors a try. There are subcategories of this listed about, and sub-subcategories. It's really fascinating the more you delve into it. Expand your culinary universe with craft beers.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes the "BBQ My Way" column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQ-My-Way.com.