As a boy growing up in a small town in Kentucky not much noteworthy stuff happened, which of course was a good thing. Stay below the radar and things will be OK, leading to a quiet and unassuming life. While activity was slow, we did have one thing that made us stick out in the crowd in the central Kentucky area. That was ALE 8 One, or Ale 8 for short.
Ale 8 was a local soft drink developed by Mr. Lee Wainscot in 1926 after traveling through Europe in search of a different formula compared to Coca Cola and other soft drinks. The name is derived from the fact he came into the market “late”, or after Coke and others. So the name “A Late One” was born. It was later shortened to “Ale 8 One” and is more commonly referred to on the street as “Ale 8”. In fact, there are only a handful of bottlers that are still returnable. It’s tough to get away from old times.
It always tastes better in the big green returnable bottle than in the disposable one – or so I think. Many a child was reared on the green bottle drink. In fact, one local grocer, Smitty Gaunce, once declared that the Ale 8 machine outside of his market put his kids through college. I do not doubt that a bit and that was when they were 15 cents each!
You do not hear many stories of “David slaying a Goliath” in the business world but you can chalk up one minor victory for the Ale 8 bunch. Back in the 60’s Coca Cola was so worried or concerned about the popularity of Ale 8 that they developed a knock off called “Mountain Ale” – no relation to Mountain Dew which came along later. Needless to say the locals were not impressed by the “Invading Raiders from Atlanta” and Mountain Ale was soon gone and soon forgotten.
Today the Ale 8 One Bottling Company is still headed by descendants of Lee Wainscot as Lee’s great-great nephew, Fielding Rodgers, is the owner and CEO of the company. You do not hear of many fourth generation family-owned businesses around these days, but this company is still going strong.
With the popularity of Ale 8 also came problems. How do I get to drink this wonderful nectar once I leave the homeland? Over the years many attempts have been made to widen the distribution channels with limited success, much to the dismay of the masses who await it’s arrival on store shelves near them. If you are in Ohio or Indiana you may have some areas that carry it, but other than that the land is dry of Ale 8!
But alas, changes are on the horizon. With youthful leadership surrounded by seasoned marketers of our grand drink, also comes creative thinking. And creative is what they are. Beginning this month, the fine folks at Cracker Barrel Restaurants, headquartered in Lebanon, TN, will be distributing the soft drink that has raised generations of Kentuckians. The distribution deal is set to have all 600 stores in 42 states stocking the shelves beginning soon. In fact, by the time you read this, you should be able to meander up to the Cracker Barrel right here in Conyers and purchase the “Nectar of the Gods”. If you go in and they do not have it, then ask to see the manager. If he/she is clueless call me – I know peeps!