Review: Ale-8-One

Back in November, my wife and I left Chicago and drove to Kentucky for a friend’s wedding. Before we went, however, my friend Henry — who went to college in that state — told me to check out a Kentucky-based beverage called Ale-8-One. And so we did!

Now, Ale-8-One is a ginger ale that appears to be passionately loved by folks in the Bluegrass state and surrounding areas. For one thing, it’s a locally-produced product (Winchester, Kentucky) that has limited distribution, thus the regional appeal. It has a funky name, which according to the drink’s official website, “was adopted as a pun of its description as the latest thing in soft drinks,” i.e. a play on the phrase “A Late One” in 1926. Additionally, this drink contains caffeine, which is rather odd for a ginger ale-type beverage. Finally, the drink seems to be used as a mixer with many alcoholic products, specifically bourbon and vodka. (We won’t even explore the fact that it is also part of a branded salsa and barbecue sauce product line!)

The drink is currently available in a few packaging formats. The preferred version is a 12 oz. glass bottle, though it’s also recently been made available in the standard 20 oz. plastic bottle as well. A diet derivative is also in the marketplace.

Upon opening the bottle, you’ll notice a drink that pretty much smells like any other ginger ale. Looks pretty much the same as well… cloudy, yellowish, bubbly. As for the taste, it’s not bad. However, I didn’t notice anything particularly special that would set apart Ale-8-One from similar products. The texture was flatter, i.e. less carbonation. The flavor combinations were cleaner and tasted more authentic when it come to it’s ginger/citrus aspect. The ingredient list on my bottle noted that it was sweetened with “sugar and/or corn sweetener”, so it’s rather hard to tell if this had high fructose corn syrup in it or not. The clean taste would seem to indicate no HFCS, but again, I have no way of proving that.

A full ingredient list is as follows:

Carbonated water, sugar and/or corn sweetener, glycerine, natural and artificial flavorings, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative), caramel coloring, phosphoric acid, caffeine

A 8 oz. serving will cost you 80 calories, 10 mg of sodium, and 20 g of sugars. The caffeine content breaks down to , which translates down to 3.1 mg/oz. For comparison, Mountain Dew has 4.5 mg/oz. More interestingly, the diet version contains more caffeine, featuring 3.7 mg/oz.

Apparently, this beverage was featured in the 2005 film Elizabethtown featuring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. I’ve never seen it, but if you do, I guess look out for the drink!

Overall, Ale-8-One is pretty good. It offers nothing by way of taste to set it apart from other products in the marketplace, but does provide a infusion of caffeine that may be desired by some consumers. I applaud its localized appeal and passionate history, though I can’t see it becoming more than just a regional brand.