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Dublin Dr Pepper Is Gone, But Not Forgotten

Lori Dodd at the Dublin Dr Pepper plant

Yesterday was the last day to buy Dublin Dr Pepper at the plant. Anyone who tells you this was amicable resolution to the lawsuit filed by Dr Pepper/Snapple against the Dublin plant needs to watch the TV interview with the tearful owners as they shut the place down.

If you are wondering what all the fuss is about, check out this story in the Houston Press about the Dublin Dr Pepper tradition, here’s an excerpt:

The flavored syrup that all Dr Pepper bottlers use is manufactured in St. Louis. Local bottlers just add the carbonated water and the sweetener, which is why it was so easy for the Dublin plant to continue to use cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. The franchise agreement that bottlers have with Dr Pepper doesn’t require them to use any particular sweetener—but it does limit the area where they can deliver products.

And the product that the bootleggers want is a retro-looking eight-ounce bottle full of cane sugar-sweetened Dublin Dr Pepper. Though the bottles look old, they are actually new disposable bottles. I drank one while we walked around the factory. There was a wonderful mouth-filling quality about the sugar sweetness that had me smacking my lips.

The disposable eight-ounce bottles are popular, but true connoisseurs have their own bottles. Although Dr Pepper discontinued reusable bottles in 1990, the Dublin Dr Pepper plant still refills old Dr Pepper bottles for loyal customers.

I looked at cases upon cases of bottles going back to the 1960s and 1970s that were waiting to be washed. It’s amazing that so many people keep these old bottles in circulation. Manager Lori Dodd told me that there are collectors with bottles dating all the way back to the 1930s — those have to be hand-filled. The factory itself maintains an inventory of over 100,000 old reusable Dr Pepper bottles.

The Dr Pepper plant is so revered in Dublin that on Monday, June 9, in an annual rite of summer, a crew of workers will drive around the city limits taking down the signs that read “Dublin” and replacing them with signs that read “Dr Pepper, Texas.”

Well so much for that 120 year-old Texas tradition. Why the corporate headquarters of Dr Pepper/Snapple found it necessary to close down the oldest Dr Pepper bottler in Texas and a living museum of their own history is baffling to anyone who respects our food culture.

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