I'll second Hendricks and The Botanist, found them both to be excellent as well as both the standard and barrel aged versions of Blue Coat.
Yes, by all means something dark, black butte is a solid starter from your neck and I'd also drop in Guinness, not as much for the flavour but as one of the few nitrogenated cans available they can get a sense of the textural difference without the need to abscond to the pub.
Sure, I guess bud, the logic is sound and kinda funny. Then maybe a good pils for comparison (Firestone Walker Pivo or Victory Prima).
A pale ale (Ballast Point Grunion or Alpine Happy Birthday), a West Coast IPA (Alpine Duet or Stone IPA) and a Northeast IPA (most of these are only locally/brewery available - check Great Notion maybe or Omnipollo's Fatamorgana) to taste what hops can do.
Then a wheat (Franziskaner) and a wit (Allagash White) for what yeast can do.