Last week, I wrote about Dublin Bottling Works and its new line of bottled sodas, which the company, formerly known as Dublin Dr Pepper, distributes one small store or restaurant at a time, particularly in Austin, where company vice president Jeff Kloster lives (Kloster and his father Bill Kloster are the current co-majority owners). But there’s more to the story than just the rebirth of the company. Below, five things you probably didn’t know about Dublin Bottling Works.
1. The Sweetener Is Key
Texas’s own Imperial Cane Sugar is still the key to Dublin’s soda. Even larger bottlers which don’t go for high-fructose corn syrup typically use liquefied cane sugar. But Dublin is still small enough to get the granulated stuff in the bag, just like consumers at the supermarket (albeit in quantites of fifty pounds and several pallets).
Kloster is also proud of his company’s reverse-osmosis filtration system, since everything still starts with the water (though for the moment, only Dublin’s bag-in-box fountain drinks and refillable bottles are actually made in Dublin). And now that its main focus is its own line, rather than Dr Pepper, they also get to tinker with the syrups.
“When you own it, you get to order it the way you want it from the flavor house,” he says. “Ours is high quality, a little more expensive, because, for instance, my lemon-lime has natural lemon and lime oil in it. Not artificial flavor. That’s how come ours tastes better.”
Dublin is planning to install new bottling equipment, which will allow them to do everything in-house. And Kloster’s also planning for more flavors, including their own ginger ale, and possibly seasonal tastes like summer peach or holiday cranberry.
2. Big Red, Nay. Triple XXX, Yay.
“We still have Big Red,” Kloster said back when Dublin’s dispute with the Dr Pepper Snapple Group was settled, and that seemed like a cool thing: a Texas company and a Texas soda could still work together selling cane sugar-sweetened Retro Big Red, which Kloster says Dublin had helped popularize around Austin.
“I was walking in deliveries of Dr Pepper and Big Red together,” Kloster says. “The reason [Austin’s] Home Slice Pizza carries Big Red is I went to the owners and asked them as a personal favor to carry it.”
But Austin-based Big Red is part-owned by Dr Pepper, so, as Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer reported, that came to an end.
Dublin now sells its own bright red “Retro Creme Soda,” as well a Triple XXX root beer, which is now owned by an Indiana company, but began in Galveston in 1895.
3. “Doppelganger” Is Neither Dublin Nor Pepper
The DP-like soda, which can be found on fountains at such Austin establishments as Royal Blue and Torchy’s Tacos, is a cane-sugar sweetened knockoff/tribute to the classic drink, though of course, it cannot truly replicate the famous 23-flavor formula. But it’s also not a Dublin product, which many people mistakenly assume. It is provided by the distributor Party Time Beverages, which also carries the Maine Root line.
4. You Can’t Cook With High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Like to baste your ribs with Dr Pepper? High-fructose corn syrup isn’t gonna caramelize.
“It tastes burnt,” Kloster says. “You can’t cook with corn syrup. So the only way you can drink hot Dr Pepper is using sugar-sweetened Dr Pepper.”
5. But You Can Still Drink Dublin Dr Pepper
It’s just not called that, or sold by Dublin anymore.
DPS will now distribute Dr Pepper sweetened with cane sugar throughout Dublin’s former territory. …It’s the same product Dublin sold. It will still be bottled and canned in distinct, nostalgic packaging. The only difference is it will not reference Dublin on the label.
Nonsense, people said. Dublin’s product was one of kind. Those corporate soda people may even use beet sugar!
But the truth is (as with Dublin’s current line) only bag-in-box fountain soda and refillable bottles were truly “Dublin Dr Pepper,” mixed and made in Dublin’s bottling plant. Most of what we knew and loved as Dublin Dr Pepper was bottled for Dublin in Temple, and is still bottled just the same for Dr Pepper-Snapple (in part) in Temple.
Asked flat-out if there is any ineffable difference between a Temple bottle of cane-sugar sweetened Dr Pepper and what Dublin made, Kloster can’t help but pause for moment before saying, “No.”
But that only highlights what made Dublin Dr Pepper special. It was never just about the sugar, or the soda. It was about the history. The town. The family business. And the Kloster family’s belief that cane sugar was better, decades before corporate Dr Pepper thought so.
And all those things live on at Dublin Bottling Works.
Though, at the same time, if you absolutely have to have the same cane-sugar sweetened Dr Pepper you were still drinking in January … you mostly can.