As Twitter pros know, I hosted a beer tasting last night at the Columbia Heights neighborhood bar Red Derby. A warm crowd of strangers huddled together around a dimly lit pool table in the back room, clutched beer cups in each hand, and made friends over some serious side-by-side tasting.

Why side by side? Well, because double-fisting is fun in a frowned-upon way, like eating pancakes for dinner. But also because the point of the tasting, which spanned four different styles of beer, was for people to discover something new. Some people learned that beer can be sweet and chocolaty; others discovered the wonders of a hoppy pale ale. With side-by-side tastings, every beer has a point of reference, so in the end you remember more of what you tasted, which all leads to the ultimate goal: drink what you like.

Anyway, thanks all the great people who came out, and send me your suggestions for the next tasting on the big blue website. Full beer list after the jump:

  • Schlitz & National Bohemian – In the name of science, it had to be done. Derby has two $2 beers, and you know you’re gonna be drinking one of them at some point. Side by side, Natty was a lot sweeter than I remembered, with a creamed-corn thing going on much like Miller High Life. The crowd agreed that Schlitz was distinctly more “beer-y” — and surprisingly hoppy for a can of fizzy water. The punch line? Both beers are made by Pabst.
  • Belhaven & Oskar Blues Old Chub – Here we had the traditional Belhaven, a Scotch ale that gets sweet caramel flavors from boiling the barley extra-long in the brew kettle, caramelizing the sugars. It was fine. Then we had Old Chub, a very American “extreme” take on the style, with real burnt-sugar flavors, some sticky maple, and a touch of smoke. This beer won over some converts; quoth one, “I didn’t know beer could be sweet!”
  • Goose Island Matilda – Surprise beer! Eight beers just didn’t seem like enough, so I picked this up on the way home from work before the tasting. It’s a near-perfect Belgian-style strong ale, as I’ve written in Beerspotter, and was several people’s favorite with its holiday clove and allspice and tickly Belgian yeast.
  • Butternuts Porkslap & Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale – Dale’s is a dependably delicious can of citrusy hop nectar, and last night was no exception. Porkslap, though also a pale ale, is only 4.3% abv compared to Dale’s at 6.5%, so of course there’ll be less flavor. Porkslap is made with fresh ginger, which was a little too present in such a light beer and came off tinny. Still though, a nice beer considering it’s about the strength of Corona.
  • Butternuts Moo Thunder & Oskar Blues Ten Fidy – AKA dessert. Like the Scotch ales, this wasn’t a head-to-head matchup but more of a pairing; Moo Thunder is a milk stout, which means it’s actually brewed with lactose for a creamy texture. Brewing yeast can’t digest lactose the way it does other sugars, so it stays in the beer unfermented. Meanwhile, Ten Fidy weighs in at an eponymous 10.5% abv and looks like something you’d either put in your engine or remove from your septic tank. It had mounds of chocolate and some raisin sweetness, and a noticeable alcoholic burn. The perfect way to the end the tasting — before we all went to the bar for seconds of our favorite beers of the night.