Like the Alamo and Willie Nelson, Dublin Dr Pepper is revered among Texans. For over a century, a tiny bottling plant in Dublin, Texas, known as Dublin Bottling Works, pumped out the beloved and addictive fizzy drink. But after a dispute with the Dr Pepper Snapple Company, Dublin Bottling Works was forced to halt production on the beverage. What followed was a million hearts breaking across the Lone Star State (and an onslaught of angry Facebook comments directed at the Dr Pepper corporation). A plate of Texas barbecue or a Whataburger burger just wouldn’t be the same without a Dublin Dr Pepper to wash it all down.
But just what makes Dublin Dr Pepper so special? And what was behind its demise?
Behind the 23 Flavors
Dr Pepper was created in Waco, Texas in the early 1880s by a pharmacist named Charles Alderton. Alderton concocted the drink at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store. The owner, Wade Morrison, got the first sample of what became known locally as the “Waco.” Alderton gave the recipe to Morrison, who named the drink “Dr Pepper.”
In 1891, Morrison was in the process of launching a bottling plant to produce his new product when he was approached by Texas businessman Sam Houston Prim. Prim had tasted Dr Pepper and knew he wanted to distribute it through his newly established Dublin Bottling Works company.
The soda was a hit, and not just in Texas. Dr Pepper fever was spreading across the nation. The drink’s popularity skyrocketed when it was introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, along with the ice cream cone.
READ MORE: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dr Pepper
But nowhere was Dr Pepper more beloved than in Dublin. And no one in Dublin loved Dr Pepper more than W.P. Kloster. Kloster started working at Dublin Bottling Works at the age of 14 as a bottle sorter making 10 cents an hour. He continued working at the plant into adulthood and became known as “Mr. Dr Pepper.” For 67 years, Kloster worked tirelessly, eventually working his way up to production manager and, later, general manager. In 1991, the Prim family left the business to the man who had devoted his life to preserving this special part of American culture.
Kloster didn’t believe in flashy, high dollar advertising. He believed in greeting customers in person and donating to local community causes. He kept the 1930s bottling equipment and his treasured old Dr Pepper memorabilia. In the 1970s, soda manufacturers began using high fructose corn syrup over Imperial sugar to cut costs. But Kloster refused to give in. He knew what his customers wanted and it wasn’t corn syrup.
The Dr is Out
Dublin quickly became Mecca for “Peppers” across the country. It wasn’t uncommon for folks to drive from Dallas or Waco for a case of the original recipe soda.
The 2014 documentary Bottled Up: The Battle Over Dublin Dr Pepper also chronicles the soda pop “bootlegging” that went on in the 1970s.
Dublin Dr Pepper enjoyed success as a “throwback” drink before it was trendy. Dublin devotees could guzzle down the beverage as far away as Austin, where it was sold in local restaurants such as Home Slice Pizza.
But the Dr Pepper Snapple Company, based in Plano, Texas, eventually filed a lawsuit claiming that Dublin Bottling Works violated its licensing agreement by selling outside its distribution territory. On Jan. 11, 2012, a day which will be forever be known as the day Dublin Dr Pepper died, the Kloster family sold their rights to the Dr Pepper name and ceased making the product.
Thankfully, there’s still plenty to do, see and, yes, drink at Dublin Bottling Works. The Kloster family is still proudly producing their own real-sugar-only sodas at the oldest soda bottling plant in Texas. Visit Old Doc’s Soda Shop for a Blueberry Breese, Dublin Texas Root Beer, Dublin Ginger Ale or Dublin Sweet Peach. Or get an old fashioned Dublin ice cream float.
While you sip, take in the Dr Pepper memorabilia at the W.P. Kloster Museum. Want a souvenir? Bring home a “Come and Drink It” t-shirt.
When it comes to the question of corn syrup vs. cane sugar, Dublin Bottling Works shows no signs of ever backing down – production costs be damned.
In a statement on the company website, Dublin Bottling Works offers this steadfast, ever-so-Texas explanation:
“We don’t claim to be doctors or scientists, but our bottling line will never produce a high fructose soda. We know our customers want what tastes best, and that’s pure cane sugar. End of story.”
We’ll drink to that.