In Dublin, Texas, pure cane sugar sodas have never been a fad; they've been the standard.
Dublin Bottling Works: Pure Cane Sugar Soda Goodness
It’s been trendy of late for big international brands to market special “pure sugar” versions of their sodas, omitting high-fructose corn syrup in favor of the natural sweetener. The latest to join the market is Pepsi, which this summer introduced a variety of cola flavors dressed in retro-looking cans and stamped with “Made with Real Sugar”.
But one company has always made sodas the old fashioned way: Dublin Bottling Works, in tiny Dublin, Texas. Since 1891, Dublin Bottling Works has been bottling outstanding pure cane sugar sodas, first for Dr. Pepper (you could only get pure cane sugar Dr. Pepper in Central Texas), and now with their own line of fun, delicious, and colorful fizzy drinks.
Our Creative Director, Caleb, traveled to Dublin to have a first-hand look at soda history, which continues to be made there everyday. His beautiful photos and insightful notes follow below. Enjoy this photo tour, and if you’re anywhere in Central Texas, we recommend you detour to make an in-person visit to Dublin for your own photos, and to taste some tasty sodas.
Welcome to Dublin Bottling Works, in Dublin, TX, home to 12 unique soda flavors, and up until 2012, to the famous "Dublin Dr Pepper."
The history of Dublin Bottling Works begins with Dr Pepper, which was born in Waco, TX in 1885, a mere 90 miles southeast of Dublin. From 1891 until 2012, DBW continually bottled Dr Pepper, making it the oldest continually running bottlers for the brand.
One of the key things that differentiated DBW from other Dr Pepper bottlers was their dedication to only using pure cane sugar as a sweetener when all the other Dr Pepper bottlers switched to the cheaper high-fructose corn syrup.
This decision singled DBW out from the rest of the Dr Pepper bottlers, and after gaining notoriety for their superior tasting Dr Pepper, received permission to add a small “Dublin” into the Dr Pepper logo to identify their unique and popular recipe.
Dublin Bottling Works stopped bottling for Dr Pepper in 2012, but didn’t stop bottling refreshing sodas. They continued with their own line of Dublin Bottling Works flavors, which you can find across Texas in select stores. Look for the colorful, glass bottles.
Unlike today, when beverages are typically sold in single-use glass or plastic containers, DBW uses the old-style reusable glass money-back soda bottles, allowing them to be washed and refilled.
This task is accomplished by a 1965 Miller Hydro bottle washer. It takes in the dirty bottles on one end, runs them through an automated cleaning process, and spits them out the other end ready to be filled once again.
Peeking inside a maintenance hatch gives a glimpse at heavy steel components that could only have been American made in the middle of the century.
When the clean bottles exit the bottle washer, they immediately travel down a short conveyor belt to be refilled. First, they are partially filled with flavored syrup, then a slow stream of carbonated water tops the bottle off, followed by a cap.
Once capped, each bottle passes through a clever and effective bottling-date identification system: a marker brushes over the bottle cap, the color of which indicates when it was bottled. The color is changed on a regular basis to indicate different dates.
Next, bottles enter the Potter & Rayfield 160 Mixer. When they are filled, the syrup and water do not initially mix. The mixer performs the simple but important task of rotating each bottle end over end three times. Prior to the usage of this machine, this process was done manually. Anyone who has enjoyed a soda before knows the importance of not shaking it before consumption, so the slow rotation allows for mixing without over-agitation.
Finally, the bottles continue on to a final collecting area where they are packed into crates and are prepared for redistribution to thirsty customers.
The beautiful mechanics of this process feel wholesome. From the use of real cane sugar because it tastes better, to the reuse of glass bottles because throwing old ones away is wasteful, to the heavy machines that so delicately handle the glass bottles without breaking them (most of the time), it feels like something your hard-working grandfather would approve of.
Your grandfather would also approve of Dublin Bottling Works flavors—there are twelve of them as of publication—still exclusively using cane sugar per their tradition. The flavors are: Dublin Ginger Ale, Dublin Orange Cream, Retro Cream Soda, Fru Fru Berry Soda, Dublin Retro Grape, Black Cherry, Dublin Texas Root Beer, Dublin Vintage Cola, Dublin Tart -n- Sweet Brand Lemonade, Dublin Vanilla Cream Soda, Dublin Cherry Limeade and Dublin Sweet Peach.
Inside the bottling plant there is a small museum.
Below is the first cash register used by Dublin Bottling Works, a National Model 410. It still works, but due to it’s maximum accepted amount of $7.99, there are some practical issues with it’s usage.
You can also see an early style vending machine called the “Roulette.” It was removed from use when it was realized that sneaky little soda thieves would insert a single nickel which released the glass hatch, and have a friend hold it open. The mechanism did not allow for multiple bottles to be removed on a single nickel, but it did allow the internal drum to be rotated (think of a revolver pistol). So, beverage bandits would pop the caps off of the sodas still in the machine, insert straws, and drink to their heart’s content, leaving behind a machine full of empty bottles.
This taste of Dr Pepper history can be seen at the main DBW building (tours are $5 and run every 45 minutes). For an even more extensive history lesson, look no further than directly across the street to the W. P. Kloster Museum Annex, opened in 2011.
William "Bill" P. Kloster, who worked his way from being a bottle filler as a teenager, to owning and operated DBW from 1991 to 1999, was, to put it mildly, an avid Dr Pepper memorabilia collector, and the items on display are part of his personal collection. The entirety of Kloster’s collection is so vast that only approximately 20% is on display at any time. The rest, safely tucked in storage nearby.
Parked in the back is a beautifully restored 1952 Ford delivery truck that is now retired, save the occasional appearance in parades through town.
After seeing how the soda was made and learning the history, the only thing left was to try some myself. Luckily, they are prepared for people like me and have Old Doc’s Soda Shop.
Complete with Dublin Bottling Works original soda flavors, a menu of great food, a gift shop, and some fun items for show like Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars Episode I…
…and this Cushman step-through scooter…
…and a map of where visitors are from…
…and a build-your-own-case soda station.
My lunch at Old Doc’s was wonderful; I enjoyed a Vanilla Cream Soda, with the soda syrup and carbonated water mixed right in front of my eyes, and a great BBQ sandwich.
Lunch was topped off with some dessert in the form of their signature Frosty: Blue Bell vanilla ice cream, with the soda syrup of your choice (Black Cherry Cola is a fan favorite), and a splash of carbonated water. Don’t forget the cherry on top.
If you're ever in the neighborhood, you should make a stop in Dublin to see what all the fuss is about. Tell them we sent you.