I have in the past expressed my enthusiasm for the grain rye and what it brings to beer (and bread). I recently picked up a bottle of rye ale (1876 Rye Ale) from a Minnesota brewery (Bank Brewing Co.) I’d never heard of in a Minnesota border town I’d never heard of (Hendricks, Minn., on the South Dakota border).

I took the beer straight out of the refrigerator and poured it into a glass and took a taste. It seemed sharp and without much depth of character, which is unusual for a rye.

This is definitely a beer you want to warm up a bit, which I did after the first sip. As I’m waiting for the beer to warm up, I’m looking at the label and trying to figure out the significance of the grimacing cowboy with guns blazing in each fist. 1876. Hmmm, that was the year the James-Younger Gang made a failed raid on a bank in Northfield, Minn., that left one citizen and two gang members dead. But Northfield is almost 200 miles due east of Hendricks. I guess since the brewery is in a former bank, that is enough of a connection.

By the time I’ve figured out the label to my own satisfaction, the beer has warmed enough to release more of its character. And there it is, that lovely spicy warmth that rye imparts.

(A note to bar owners and tenders everywhere:  While frosty mugs might add some character when you’re serving a bland American macrolager, frosted mugs rob rich craft beers and finely made European beers of their character.)

1876 Rye Ale is a nice session beer, but I would love to get my hands on one of the breweries special edition brews called Devil’s Gulch Rye Ale. It’s a 9 percent rye that was aged in rye whisky barrels. Yahoo!