LAST WEEK, AFTER ORDERING freshly shucked rock oysters at a cafe on the magnificent Sydney waterfront, I decided to go for a true-blue beer-lover's experience. Avoiding the champagne recommended by our Aussie waiter and ignoring the long list of tempting chards (chardonnay, to those who don't speak Oz), I reached for a Guinness Dry Irish Stout. It turned out to be an inspired choice, because the charred taste of Guinness contrasted brilliantly with the brininess of the oysters, and the two wonderful flavours played a duet on our palates. Matching fine beer with good food often produces such delightful symphonies and, not being constrained by any hard and fast rules, fun experiments usually yield the most delicious results. For example, beer and cheese, both products of fermentation, get on like a house on fire. Highly flavoured chevre (goats cheese), which is what the smart set is nibbling these days, blends beautifully with a strong marmalade-y bitter such as London Pride, and contrasts sharply with a yeasty wheat beer such as Erdinger. Roquefort, Stilton and others in the crumbly, blue-veined family find cultured soulmates in Belgian Trappist beers such as Chimay Blue or Orval, and even the simplest white cheddar cheese perks up in the company of a dry Czech lager like Pilsner Urquell. The French may bluster on about their 'wine and brie' but the English have always known a thing or two about pairing roast beef and lamb with aromatic pale ales that taste best freshly pulled at a village pub in Old Blighty. Bottled ales available in Hong Kong will do almost as well, especially a well-rounded, complex Marston's Pedigree or the powerful, malty Abbott Ale. IPA - the stronger and hoppier version of ale once manufactured to survive the long journey from Britain to the colonies - goes brilliantly with hot Sichuan or Thai cuisine. The floral hops help to mellow the heat slightly as it goes down and the robust body matches the spices in strength. The tart, refreshing, coriander-tinged Belgian Hoegaarden is a great match for some Indian dishes, cutting through the richness and letting the taste shine through. Fishy combinations abound: oily salmon with dry German pilsners (Bitburger for example); scallops and mussels with Irish stouts such as Murphy's; and even Cantonese steamed fish with Mort Subite Framboise, a sherry-like Belgian lambic beer fermented with wild yeasts apparently available only in a small town south of Brussels. Other classics include simple asparagus and scrambled eggs with lager; pork with pale ale; smoky German rauchbiers with smoked meats; Italian Birra Moretti with pizza ... the list goes on. For me, the ultimate pairing comes at the end of a meal - beer with dessert. Some people love German wheat beers such as Franziskaner Weisse with fruit desserts. Others swear by Hoegaarden with anything orange flavoured. But for a gorgeous, almost illicit experience, try the coffee-ish, chocolatey, heady Bridgeport Porter with some sinfully dark, chocolate ice-cream. Don't say I didn't warn you. All these beers are available in Hong Kong, many of them at Beer Bay (Discovery Bay Plaza, tel: 2987 8023), Oliver's (Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2810 7710), city'super (Times Square, Causeway Bay, tel: 2506 2888) and Great (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2918 9986). Conduct your own experiments and let me know what your favourite combinations are. ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).