Golden or blonde ale, American wheat ale, lightly hopped lagers. Since these beers lack both maltiness and hoppiness, they work best as thirst-quenchers. Try them with super-hot food, such as blackened redfish. Once your tongue has been assaulted with hot spices, it will no longer be able to appreciate an intricately flavored beer, anyway.
Weissbier, dunkelweiss. You want to be able to enjoy the flavors of the yeast, so stick with delicate foods, such as a delicate soup or pasta or light cheeses. These beers also work well with lightly flavored vegetarian dishes, such as grilled vegetables, or light chicken dishes.
Amber ale. A good all-around beer for any food that isn't sweet -- something sweet will detract from the maltiness in the beer. It complements sandwiches, hearty soups and pizzas. Also a good thirst-quencher for barbecue or Mexican food.
Bitter, pale ale, India pale ale, German/Bohemian pilsners. While hops can kill your tastebuds when paired with many foods, they do make for some particularly good matches -- fried seafood, for example, because hoppiness cuts through grease, or anything with vinegar as a main ingredient. They also complement smoked, boiled, steamed or broiled seafood. And they can enhance the spiciness of highly spiced cuisine. The fruitier pale ales also will complement lamb, beef and game, or try them with liver paté.
English or American brown ale. Hamburgers and sausages are hearty enough for either kind of ale. The English brown may match nicely with smoked fish, while game dishes can stand up to the hoppiness of the American brown.
Porter, dry or oatmeal stout. Think hearty foods -- meat dishes with gravy, barbecue, shepherd's pie, stew. Oysters are also ideal. Both these beers and the brown ales will stand up to stronger cheeses such as sharp cheddar and blue.
Cream or sweet stout, imperial stout. These are made for chocolate, and imperial stout pairs especially well with dark chocolate. Also try chocolate-and-fruit desserts, such as stout cheesecake with raspberry sauce, or something with caramel or pecans.
Vienna lager/Oktoberfest/Mäarzen, dark lager, bock. Like amber ale, these are good all-around food beers, and they're not as filling as ales. The lagers will cut some of the heaviness in sauce-based meat dishes - chicken paprikash, goulash or pork rouladen, for example - and will stand up to their strong flavors. The perfect beers to serve with pretzels and mustard. Sweeter bocks, such as doppelbocks, can complement heartier, spicier desserts, such as pumpkin pie or spice cake.
Fruit beers, lambics. Sweeter fruit beers and fruit lambics can be paired with light fruit desserts, such as souffles or chiffon cake, but sour ones will probably overwhelm fruit flavors. Some people like to drink lambics with dark chocolate. Entrees that are prepared with fruit - i.e., raspberry-glazed duck breast - can pair nicely with fruit beers. Consider enjoying these alone at the end of the meal.
Old ale, barley wine. Most foods don't stand up to these stronger beers, and you'll probably lose the maltiness in the beer as well. Try a really strong cheese or a piece of super-dark chocolate, or serve them alone or with a cigar.
A few more guidelines:
Don't always match like with like. As you can see from the suggestions above, lighter beers tend to go well with lighter foods, heavier beers with heavier foods, but that's not a hard-and-fast rule. And if you're cooking with beer, you don't have to serve the same beer you cooked with alongside the dish. Often, you'll want to serve a beer that has the opposite characteristics of the one you cooked with. For example, chef Skversky finds the yeasty hefeweiss that he uses in his potato soup too "palate-coating" to accompany the soup, and he prefers to serve it with a light, golden ale.
Think ethnic. Try German bratwurst with grilled onions and horseradish with a German dark lager, English stout with steak-and-kidney pie, English brown ales or bitters with mild sausage, or a hoppy American pale ale or pilsner with raw or steamed New England clams.