If you are a restaurant owner and care about your beer-drinking customers, you owe it to step up your game. While I realize that the economics favor serving a $45 bottle of wine instead of an $8 bottle of beer, rising beer prices and ease of service can make great beer a more attractive economic proposition. If you're running a high-end restaurant, you can offer expensive bottles of beer with decent mark-ups, and grateful malt-lovers will appreciate the opportunity to pay the price. Boulevard's Saison Brett is flying off store shelves at $12 or more a bottle, and I would have been happy to spend $18 - $19 to enhance my meal with a bottle of that wonderful stuff.
I'm not asking every restaurant to become a tap house. Even those with small space can offer a popular and intriguing selections of beers to enhance the food.
Not only is it a good idea to pair good beer with good food but it's a lot more practical for diners. Frequently when Stella and I are going out to a nice dinner we're having a different dish and different meats. But, we're only going to get one bottle of wine, so one of us has to sacrifice the perfect drink match to be practical. If I'm getting fish (which I usually do, because, like Dan, I cook pretty great steak at home) and Stella is getting a steak, I don't want to get a bottle of cab sauv, I want to get a pinot grigio or chardonnay (this predicament can be avoided with a good selection of wines by the glass, but that is frequently not an option). We have to settle on a pinot noir and neither of us is very satisfied by how well the wine works with the food. But beer is much more practical because we can each get a good beer that enhances our food.
Instead of good and exciting beer we are typically presented with the big 8 in bottles, Heineken, Amstel Light, Fat Tire, Boulevard Wheat and Pale Ale, and 3 of Newcastle Brown, Guinness, Harp, Peroni, Bass, Beck's, Hoegaarden foreign prize pack. Nothing wrong with those beers, but nothing exciting about those beers either. If you add a couple of Rochefort, Avery, Rogue, Great Divide, Ommegang, Odell's brews to the list you have something exciting. If you really want to be cool, just carry the entire Boulevard lineup including the Smokestack beers.
An angle that Dan didn't go down is the lack of seasonal beers on restaurant menus. This takes a little bit of active work on the part of a restaurateur. But, any fine dining restaurant should be changing their menus based on the seasons, why not change your beer menu too. I don't want to be drinking witbiers in the winter and I don't want to be drinking stouts in the summer, just like I don't want a heavy cream sauce in the summer and a citrusy sauce in the winter. Seasonal beers are making the change that the restaurant is making with its menu. You don't get that with wine, which is probably why wine is preferred, it's actually less work to maintain. But you know what, there's a whole crew of people that want to drink Nutcracker with their dinner this time of year, there's people who want to drink Schlafly Christmas Ale and if you have a menu item that says winter, such as braised short ribs, wouldn't it be great to have the option of a beer that will enhance the flavor of the braising liquid? Wine isn't the only game in town and there are many savvy beerophiles who are looking to pair there beer with their food. I even own a book about such things, The Brewmaster's Table, that talks about these topics.
I'll even make an offer here, I'll help. Email me at email@example.com and for certain considerations (read free meals) I'll help you with your beer menu. I'll be your brewmolier. Better yet, I'll probably even write about your restaurant proclaiming it beerophile friendly. This is a win-win for everyone.