The Story of Texas' Legendary Dublin Dr Pepper
Back in 1885, Pharmacist Charles Alderton invented Dr Pepper at a drugstore in Waco, Texas.
The unique soda soon became the oldest major soft drink brand in America. Demand for their 23-flavor soda soon outgrew their production facility and they decided to license another bottling company to make their refreshing soda. Sam Houston Prim of Dublin, Texas, tasted the fountain drink and wanted in, according to the company’s website. He set up Dublin Soda in 1891 and started making Dr Pepper, hand-filling glass bottles and hand-delivering them to locals. When Prim passed away, he left the company to his daughter, Grace Lyon, who in turn left the company to W.P. (Billy) Kloster, who had worked his way up from working as a bottle sorter in the company to being in charge of the entire operation.
As Dr Pepper grew and sugar prices rose, most of the company’s bottlers switched to making the soda with high fructose corn syrup. Kloster, though, wouldn’t budge. He insisted on continuing to make their Dr Pepper with Texas-made Imperial Pure Cane Sugar, ideally in reusable glass bottles, both of which some people believe make the product even better. The Plano, Texas-based parent company let them get away with it either tacitly or explicitly, according to Texas Monthly, and Dublin Dr Pepper was born.
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For years, the quirky relationship worked fine. Dr Pepper’s other bottlers sold the high fructose corn syrup version of their product around the globe, and the Dublin bottling company would sell their version within their small distribution area. Their so-called Dublin Dr Pepper developed such a loyal fan base that they were frequently lured into selling outside its 6-county, 44-square-mile distribution area, which according to Texas Monthly, was based on how far a salesman’s horse could travel in a day back in the 1890s. Thanks to the fact that Dublin Dr Pepper could only be sold in such a small geographic area and that it was made with real sugar, the soda earned “bootleg” status. Soda lovers and store owners would drive down Highway 377 to Dublin, stopping by Old Doc's Soda Shop, and the bottling plant museum before loading up their trucks with Dublin Dr Pepper and carrying it across county lines, Smokey and the Bandit–style.
Then, 120 years after the relationship started, the Dr Pepper plant in Dublin, Texas, announced that it was being sued by its parent company, Dr Pepper Snapple (DPS). In 2011, Dr Pepper Snapple sued Dublin Bottling Works, accusing them of breaking the terms of their licensing agreement. The Plano-based corporation argued that the bottler was diluting their brand by emblazoning the words Dublin Dr Pepper across their bottles. The company also claimed that by selling online, the Dublin company violated a contract to only distribute within a 44-mile radius, and after repeated warnings they were done with their oldest and smallest bottler.
It was hard for them to argue, since they did let fans buy their Dublin Dr Pepper online and put their name on the bottles and Dr Pepper bootleggers are infamous for buying the soda in Dublin and distributing it across the state, the country, and even around the globe. Still, they reportedly fought the suit for six months, and set up a legal defense fund that fans donated to.
However on Jan. 11, 2012, DPS announced it had bought the franchisee's sales and distribution assets for an undisclosed sum.
If you want to try cane-sweetened Dr Pepper, DPS still makes it, bottling it in the Temple plant that Dublin used for some of its products, selling it in the Dublin area, and even in similar nostalgic packaging, albeit minus the Dublin name on the label. However, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t taste quite as special as you might think. As Texas Monthly put it, “It was never just about the sugar, or the soda. It was about the history. The town. The family business.”
The folks behind the Dublin bottling company didn’t want to give up the fight for their beloved soda, but knew it was going to be too hard to wage war with the deep-pocketed parent company. “We made the decision … and we’ll move forward,” said Jeff Kloster, whose grandfather made Dublin Dr Pepper a legendary product. “Dublin Dr Pepper died today, and Dublin Bottling Works opens tomorrow.”
The reborn Dublin Bottling Works started making their own natural line of sodas, which they sold wherever they wanted, including at H-E-B and Central Market, according to the Dallas Morning News. Flavors included Dublin Fru Fru Berry, Dublin Cherry Limeade, and TeXas Sweet Peach, and something called Dublin Original, a proprietary blend of 24 flavors, which of course is one more flavor than Dr.Pepper has. You can buy them online here.