Slideshow: Ask a Cicerone: What's the Hardest Food to Pair with Beer?

Salads
Salads
"The hardest foods to pair with beer are the most delicate ones. I find things like salads, especially those made with delicate yet bitter greens, can be extremely challenging to pair with beer. A mouth full of chlorophyl and bitterness is difficult to pair with beer that contains any significant amount of hop character. A saving grace in these situations is if the salad is garnished with rich foods like cheese or avocado. Hoping that your guest will grab a little of that richness on his or her fork with each bite, pairing this kind of dish with a lighter beer like a pilsner can be a success!" — Sarah Huska (Eureka! Burger)
Simple Egg Dishes
Simple Egg Dishes
"Beer, having so many unique styles and flavors, is far more versatile than, say, wine when seeking a good pairing. Thinking of an example where I haven't found at least some measure of success is difficult. The one thing that pops into mind is eggs. For the life of me, I can't think of something to pair with plain boiled or fried eggs. Some of the more sulfury aromas in the eggs don't bring the best out in any beers. Once we get more complicated, with huevos rancheros or eggs Benedict, there's more to work with, and we might find an amber lager and Belgian pale ale doing quite nicely, respectively." — Robert Johnson (Standard Market)
Very Spicy Food
Very Spicy Food
"Extremely spicy food can be very difficult.  Capsaicin will spread out on your palate. I saw one brewery suggest their IPA with spicy Thai food; this is dead wrong.  Although Americans are in love with hops, hop bitterness amplifies the affects of spiciness. There is still a beer for spicy food if you go with something super malty. Sugar and sweetness have a good way of suppressing spicy heat." — Drew Larson (HOPLEAF)
Breakfast
Breakfast
"I’ve always had a hard time pairing breakfast with beer. Yes, you should definitely consider why one would want to be drinking so early. But in this industry, it seems to happen. The bloody mary and the mimosa reign over any breakfast shop, but beerwise, what should one pair with scrambled eggs? An ESB? Pancakes and sausage and a malty-sweet Northern English Brown? Sounds good in theory but the early hours kind of nix that thought. The best thing I’ve come up with is a very citrusy, hopefully lower-alcohol American IPA with Eggs Benedict (and a large squirt of lemon over the top of the Hollandaise is a must)." — Jay Rose (Urge American Gastropub)
Some Veggies, Like Raw Celery
Some Veggies, Like Raw Celery
"Certain vegetables, when served individually, may offer a challenge. Raw celery is an example that comes to mind.  With a bitter herbaceous flavor character of its own, celery may not pair well with many beers that offer their own earthy, herbal hop bitterness character." — Rob Hill (Total Wine & More & Total Guide to Beer)
Raw Fish
Raw Fish
"Raw foods, especially seafoods are extremely difficult to pair. The flavors are so delicate and in need of finesse when pairing.  Today, with so many 'big beers', these foods can easily be overwhelmed. When a raw food pairing works, though, it is sublime. In big part because it is so unexpectedly refreshing. New-style kampachi sashimi with cucumber and roasted jalapeno ponzu paired with lightly dry hopped saison is a brillliant pairing. The fruitness of the Belgian saison yeast plays with the sweetness of the kampachi. The light hop character compounds the heat from the jalapeno to give a nice spice backbone. Too hoppy or too spicy on the ponzu and the dish can easily become overly spicy. Too high a gravity and the subtleness of the kampachi is lost." — Jensen Cummings (Slotted Spoon)