A while back I read an article in Beeradvocate.com that mentioned a contest between a winery and Stone Brewery that involved pairing wine and beer with food. The idea was that each course would be served with one wine and one beer and the diners would judge which one made a better pairing. The entire concept is flawed, of course. You can't judge them that way - it would have been better to have a wine dinner one day and a beer dinner (with the same food) on another day and let the diners rank the pairings each time to decide the winner. Plus there's the problem of wine-drinkers vs. beer-drinkers and bias by the diners. Still, I was curious to find out the results but didn't see anything until I came across this blog from Food and Wine magazine that details them (scroll down, it's near the bottom).
I found the results interesting. Rose wines were used twice and were trounced by the beer (not surprising, since rose has delicate flavors). The Shiraz beat the Stone Vertical Epic handily when paired with lamb. Again, not surprising since red wine and red meat is a pairing made in heaven. I was surprised by the choice of beer for dessert: the Russian Imperial Stout. That's a huge beer to be pairing with sweet food, no way will that beat a Moscato.
So what's the verdict? To judge by the contest, beer and wine are equally good with food. My opinion? Wine beats beer for the most part, although beer is a better pairing for certain foods. The primary reason is just numbers - there are far more styles of wine than of beer because the different species and types of hops and barley used for beer is dwarfed by the different species of grapes. Ask a beer expert to rattle off every type and style of beer he can think of and you'll be there about 20 or 30 minutes, if that. Ask a sommelier to name every type and style of wine and you'll be there, quite literally, all day. With that many more options you're bound to find more precise pairings.
So what do I like beer with? Beer makes a great pairing with Asian food in particular, be it Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, or whatever. I also find beer is better with spicy food than wine. But people have different palates. What do you prefer with beer and what do you prefer with wine?