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The Four Firkins picks six great beers for New Year's Eve

Why not ring in the new year with a different kind of bubbly? Jason Alvey, owner of the Four Firkins specialty beer store, helped us select a sixer for New Year's Eve--and any night, for that matter.

We met Alvey in St. Louis Park at his brand-spanking-new location, where he gave us a tour and his pick-six suggestions.

Originally from Australia, Alvey moved to Minnesota in 2001 and became hooked on craft brews. In 2008 he turned his passion into a business and named it the Four Firkins, a clever nod to a British unit of measurement that adds up to a full-sized barrel of beer.

Earlier this year, he decided to move the store to an area that could give the Four Firkins better visibility, more parking, and a massive upgrade in square footage. In his new digs, he has the capacity to stock over 1,000 varieties of beer, which affords him depth and flexibility. "We now have the whole lineup for brands like Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, and Summit, and we're bringing in more unusual beers," he says.

Plus, there's plenty of space to entertain. Alvey likens the vibe at the Four Firkins to an English Pub: "People are comfortable here. It's warm and inviting, and they don't want to leave."

And why would they? The heart of the store features a beautiful "Abbey Register"--the prettiest place you'll ever fork over cash for a cold one. The walls are lined with dark cases holding bottle after bottle. And Alvey and his staff--who are all professionally trained--are happy to help you navigate.

Next year, they'll be taking the show on road as they start doing events with local eateries. Although plans are still in the works, Alvey says "We're taking the existing beer dinner experience--like you'd have with a brewery and a restaurant--and bringing it to a whole new level."

In the meantime, it's time for a little celebrating. Here is Alvey's recommended six pack for New Year's Eve.

Ode to a Russian Shipwright, Olvalde Farm and Brewing Company Ode to a Russian Shipwright is the second release from a new one-man farmhouse brewery in Rollingstone, Minnesota, about 10 miles outside of Winona. "This is a porter brewed with rye and spruce tips cut off trees from his farm," Alvey says. "It has the typical roasty and chocolaty qualities you'd expect from a porter, and the spruce tips give it a slight mint character."

Provider Ale, Steel Toe Brewery The Steel Toe Brewery opened in August 2011, right in our own backyard. With four beers now on the market, the St. Louis Park brewer is reportedly rolling out two new offerings in the spring. Alvey refers to Provider as a sessionable golden ale. "It's very low alcohol, so you can drink 4 to 5 pints," he says. "But it still has lots of flavor. It's very delicate, malty, and bready. A great beer for anyone who likes to drink domestics."

La Trappe Quadrupel, Koningshoeven Brewery La Trappe Quadrupel is produced in the Netherlands at one of the world's seven Trappist breweries. Trappist beers are brewed under the watchful eye of monks, and because they're not-for-profit organizations, most of the proceeds are passed along to charities. At 10% alcohol, the Quadrupel is "full of dark fruit--plum, raisin, figs," Alvey says. "It's sweet and has the taste of burnt sugar, almost like a crème brulee."

Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, Brewery Ommegang Named after the priest who discovered both Niagara Falls and our own Saint Anthony Falls, Hennepin is one of Alvey's favorite saisons. Although Brewery Ommegang is just south of Cooperstown, New York, it was acquired by Belgian beer giant Duvel Moortgat in 2003. "So this is an American recipe that's now brewed in Belgium," Alvey says. "It's dry, a little earthy, and a little spicy. And there are also some stone fruit flavors like peach and apricot."

Tres Blueberry Stout, Dark Horse Brewery Brewed in Marshall, Michigan, by the Dark Horse Brewing Company, this blueberry stout is "simply amazing," Alvey says. "It has a big, thick mouth feel. And when you pour it, the aroma is almost all blueberry. But when you taste it, the blueberry is really subtle and blends beautifully. It's the fruit beer for people who don't like fruit beers."

Tiny, Weyerbacher Brewing Company Dan and Sue Weirback started the company in 1995 and named it Weyerbacher, in honor of family members who used the spelling when they emigrated from Germany to the U.S. Despite its name, Tiny is a big imperial stout that's brewed with Belgian yeast. The usual notes of a stout are present, but Alvey also mentions its other unique characteristics: "There's licorice and anise, and the Belgian yeast strain gives it a hint of leather and spiciness."

DeuS, Bosteels Brewery For midnight, Alvey decided to throw a seventh option our way: DeuS (pronounced DAY-oos, not DEUCE). "It's the only beer in the world that spends a full year in the champagne caves of France," he says. After being fermented in Belgium, it's shipped to France to undergo a process called "riddling" in which the bottles are angled and rotated to trap the sediment in the neck. There are only three riddling racks in the country, and the Four Firkins has one of them. Very similar to champagne, "DeuS is bright and bubbly," says Alvey. "It's dry and effervescent, with some mint, peach, and anise. And it should be served cold--out of a champagne flute."

The Four Firkins 5630 36th St., St. Louis Park 952.938.2847; Four Firkins website


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