Saturday, March 02, 2002


Taste of Ky. coming your way

        Ale-8-One is to Kentucky what RC Cola and Moon Pies are to the Southern United States. A cultural reference. A loyalty statement. Practically a meal.

        “Ryan lives mainly on cheese and mayo sandwiches, and Ale-8, if you can call that a diet,” says the Web site of Ryan Richardson, a Lexington native now at Virginia Tech.

        Very soon, folks, you too will be able to get in touch with your inner hillbilly.

        Ale-8-One, a family-owned soft drink produced in Winchester, Ky., will be widely available in Greater Cincinnati, Dayton and Southeastern Indiana beginning in April. Coca-Cola Enterprises is handling distribution.

        This is big. After 75 years in business, the company's base of potential customers will jump from 800,000 to 5.7 million.

        “There are so many people who live in Ohio and Indiana who are transplanted Kentuckians,” says Carolyn White, executive assistant to the Ale-8-One president. “We get 20 to 30 e-mails a day from people who say, "When are you going to have it in Ohio?'”

"A Late One'

        First things first. The name “Ale-8—One” was the winning entry in a company-sponsored contest. It's supposed to sound like “A Late One,” meaning the latest in carbonated beverages.

        Another tip: Don't use the full name. Natives call it just “Ale-8,” and if you're like them, you'll either love it or hate it.

        Mr. Richardson calls the drink “livelier than Sprite and smoother than ginger ale.”

        In Lexington, ACE Weekly magazine runs an annual feature called Bluegrass Bachelors. This year, one of the state's 10 most eligible men listed his favorite drink as “Tender Lovin',” a concoction of Ale-8 and vodka.

        The magazine's former film critic, Rob Bricken, “built a tower of Ale-8 empties in his office, which we got rid of last summer because of the bugs,” Editor Rhonda Reeves said.

        “No one else in the building would touch the stuff,” she said.

        Ale-8 is a champagne-colored soft drink with a ginger flavor. It comes in one version only, which says something about its Southern-ness. In the land where Vienna sausages are affectionately known as “Vi-ee-nees,” the phrase “diet pop” is an oxymoron.

Reminder of home

        Ale-8's allure is well known to Jen Reynolds, a buyer for Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, another Kentucky export.

        She grew up in West Liberty, Ky., where her truck-driving grandpa drank the stuff to stay awake.

        One of her friends always extended the same invitation: “Why don't you come over and drink an Ale-8, and we'll play some Rook?”

        “It's cracking me up that it's going to be around here,” Ms. Reynolds says. “Growing up, I thought everyone knew about it, and then I moved away and realized nobody knew about it.”

        She doesn't much care for the taste, but a bottle of Ale-8 will always remind her of home.

        Once, she became seriously ill while attending a fancy wedding in Boston. Calling her dad for comfort, she asked him, “What are you guys doing?”

        “Well,” he said, “your sister and I are just about to go downtown and get an Ale-8.”

        How she longed to be there. Even if she had to drink some.

        Karen Samples can be reached at (859) 578-5584 or at


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