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Seasonal Tastings Draw Beer Geeks and Noobs

A moment of silence was observed shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday in the basement of the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, but the mood was anything but somber — or sober.

Chris O’Brien, the author and blogger behind Beer Activist, paused the seasonal Beers and Berries tasting to invite the assembly of more than 100 imbibers to share in his “spiritual experience” of The Movement, an American pale ale from D.C.’s own 3 Stars Brewing Company.

The crowd was on its third of six summery brews, and tables were littered with suds-coated plastic sampling cups, grape stems and clementine peels.

Chatter died down, as requested, but not for a divine beer appreciation.

Rather than enjoying a deep breath of the brew’s hoppy and floral nose or appreciating the subtle bitterness of Centennial and Cascade hops, most of the attendees “just chugged,” O’Brien joked.

O’Brien’s own commitment to beer is serious. He has traveled the world researching local brewing traditions and works as director of sustainability at American University. His mission to preserve the planet and its beer inspired his 2006 book, “Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World.”

The seasonal tastings he regularly hosts at Sixth and I offer craft brew novices an accessible entry point into the intricacies of the drink, plus some sophisticated beer talk from brewing professionals.

Fruit pairings included blackberries and clementines. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Dave Coleman, co-owner of 3 Stars Brewing Co., and Mike Roy, brewer at

., and Mike Roy, brewer at Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store in Hyattsville, Md., delved into industry trends, such as the increasingly vast variety of hops available, and detailed the brewing technique behind each beer. They upped the beer geekiness with phrases such as “boiling your wort” and discussion of fermenting temperatures. But they also tried to help tasters make the most out of their sips.

Colman encouraged newbies to drink with the same hand they had used to peel their clementines to “help the aromas play together.” He also suggested 3 Stars’ Lemon Basil Saison, a session beer with relatively low alcohol by volume, as the perfect beer to pound on hot summer days. The light saison was paired with grapes Thursday night, while the brewery’s bolder Peppercorn Saison was presented alongside bowls of chopped dates.

Roy provided background on a beer perfectly suited to the D.C. recess crowd, many of whom were still rocking ties and business attire. The recipe for Franklin’s A More Perfect Union, an American robust porter, is based on the recipe for the White House’s Honey Porter. He said DC Homebrewers inspired the experimentation, resulting in a smokey chocolate roasted malt.

The panel paired the final beer of the night, an American sour ale from Franklin’s, called Ludicrous, with Granny Smith apples and an in-depth discussion of sour beer trends. But, after two hours of tossing back suds, the rowdy crowd largely drowned out Roy and Coleman’s knowledgeable commentary.