Dr. Pepper is a southern staple. Texans, in particular, are loyal to the brand, and many drove miles and miles to visit Dublin Bottling Works, or as it was known then Dublin Dr Pepper, which was producing the original Texas-made Dr Pepper with Imperial Pure Cane Sugar. This original recipe created a cult-like following around Texas, and the world, for more than 120 years.
The original Dublin Bottling Works recipe is sweeter than the current made Dr Pepper made with high-fructose corn syrup (boo!). Bill Kloster, known as Mr. Dr Pepper and the former Dublin Bottling Manager, described the original formula as, “it gives it a little more bite to it because sugar is a little sweeter than corn sweetener. They will come in and take a taste of that and say, “oh that taste like the REAL Dr. Pepper!” Sticking to tradition is what Bill Kloster did, and it got him into some hot water.
In 2011 everything that Texans and fans had come to fall in love with came to a screeching halt when the Dr Pepper Snapple Group went to a bloody war with the smallest Dr Pepper plant in the world.
History of Dublin Bottling Works
It all started in 1891 when Sam Houston Prim arrived in Dublin with $680 worth of bottling equipment and purchased the building on the corner of Patrick and Elm Street, thus Dublin Bottling Works was born. Prim visited the wild frontier town of Waco, 80 miles east of Dublin, where a new drink created by Charles Alderton was flying off the shelves.
Charles Alderton worked in Wade Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store and wanted to invent a drink that tasted as good as the soda fountain smelled. In 1891 Wade Morrison and partner Robert Lazenby organized the company Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company to sell the popular drink. That was the same year that Prim entered the history books. After visiting Waco, Prim agreed to bottle Dr Pepper in and distribute it to a 44-mile radius territory.
From that point on Sam Houston Prim and his family bottled and sold Dr Pepper. Bill Kloster started working at Dublin Bottling Works when he was 14 years old as a bottle sorter for 10 cents an hour. Sam Houston Prim took Bill in as his son and watched Bill grow into manhood as Bill worked his way up to production manager. Bill signed up for a tour during World War II and returned home to become general manager of the plant that Pim’s daughter was running. Mrs. Grace Prim Lyon passed in 1991, leaving the plant in Bill’s hands.
Bill Kloster along with his wife Iona Kloster ran the plant with the values he learned as a young man. Although he had no formal schooling in marketing he was a marketing guru and dearly loved Dr Pepper. He collected a massive assortment of Dr Pepper collectibles and built a loyal following that lovingly called him “Mr. Dr Pepper.” When corporate wanted to reduce the bottom line and give up pure cane sugar for corn sweeteners, Bill didn’t hesitate to stick to the original. In 1995 Iona Kloster, Bill’s Klosters wife of 54 years, passed and Bill decided to dedicate himself to the expansion of the museum collection as well as Old Doc’s Soda Shop. On September 27, 1999, Bill passed leaving the company to family.
On June 30, 2011, corporate Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. slammed a lawsuit on Dublin Dr Pepper and thus began a new chapter in the company’s history.
The Fight Over Dr Pepper Began
Dr Pepper Snapple asked a federal court to terminate its licensing agreement with Dublin Dr Pepper, and to prevent the small bottling company from using the iconic Dublin Dr Pepper name because Dublin Dr Pepper was infringing upon the trademark by adding the word “Dublin” to their bottles.
The lawsuit also sought to prevent sales of the one-of-a-kind soft drink on Dublin Dr Pepper’s website and toll-free number. The complaint was that Dublin Dr Pepper was selling outside its 44-mile, 6 county territories. Additionally, Dr Pepper Snapple was asking for attorneys’ fees.
The federal court claim came as a surprise to the independent bottler following decades of support and endorsement from its corporate partner.
Dublin had in fact been selling outside of the territory radius first agreed upon. However, the parent company asked Dublin to do this. In fact, there were documents shown where corporate Dr Pepper asked Dublin to send the Dublin Dr Peppers to the headquarters and to the homes of corporate officials.
Dublin Dr Pepper showed archival examples of the Dr Pepper Snapple corporate website from 2011 with links that directed customers to the Dublin Dr Pepper website and toll-free number. Also noted were bottlers in North Carolina and Missouri that, like Dublin Dr Pepper, used the Dr Pepper name in conjunction with their brands and sold their products online. Those companies had not been sued like the Texas-based bottler.
Dublin Dr Pepper also showed that corporate Dr Pepper had approved in writing the use of Dublin Dr Pepper on the graphics on the bottles, cans, and on the merchandise.
Social media and fans were outraged, and people started to ban Dr Pepper. Cases of the original soda were sold on eBay for thousands of dollars. You can still search for these drinks on eBay and find them at outrageous prices.
The Big Guy vs. the Little Guy
It was clear that the Klosters could not continue to fight a multi-billion-dollar corporation, with millions of dollars being spent by the Dublin Company to fight the suit in a matter of months. On January 11, 2012, the announcement was made that the parties had come to a settlement with Dr Pepper Snapple buying the franchisee’s sales and distribution assets. The bullies won in the end. The brand might be gone from Dublin but the history is alive and well, and you can still see it in Dublin today.
As sadness stuck the fans, employees were laid off, and the last run of 75 cases of the original Dr Pepper made in Dublin came to a close just before 5 p.m. on January 11, 2012. Since then tourism has dropped, and many businesses shut their doors. The suite not only touched the lives of the employees but significantly changed the face of this Texas town.
Ironically, Dr Pepper sells soda made with Pure Cane Sugar in 6 pack glass bottles.
Tour the History and Taste the Bubbles!
Many people assumed that Dublin Bottling Works was gone for good when Dr Pepper dropped the hammer on the tiny company, but that’s simply not true!
Texas Monthly ran a cover page article titled, “The Bucket List 63 Things All Texans Should Do Before They Die” and in the top 10 was to taste a Dublin Dr. Pepper. While Dr Pepper is no longer here, I think the this still holds true today. Every Texan and everyone planning a trip to Texas should make a point to stop at Dublin Bottling Works.
Arriving in Dublin, greets you with the famous old Texas town feel. One main road cuts down the center of the downtown buildings where you can imagine cowboys walking the streets, guns on their sides. There are less business open along the main road now, and the foot traffic is down significantly from what it was in the glory days. However, in my eyes, it makes it all the sweeter to visit. You can take your time at Old Doc’s Soda Shop. Talk with the soda jerks and try all the delicious flavors of Dublin Bottling Works Soda without feeling rushed!
My favorite flavor was TeXas Sweet Peach as well as the Root Beer, which you have to try! Discover your favorites and try them with ice cream. You can also load up a few to take home with you. We bought two six-packs to take back home. A TeXas Sweet Peach is open beside me as I type this, meaning there is only one is left in the fridge after a few days. That’s how good they are!
The reasonable prices ($5 for adults, $4 for kids and seniors) to tour the museum as well as the history that you can see in Dublin is certainly worth the stop. Make sure to walk around downtown admiring the old paintings still on buildings. Find the cute memento to Iona Kloster on the Kloster statue in the front of the building.
A tour of the museum will take a short while and is across from Old Doc’s Soda Shop. The museum houses W.P. Kloster’s massive collection of Dr Pepper paraphernalia. There is more memorabilia housed in several undisclosed locations as well. You will see classic soda bottles, calendars, soda machines, clocks and more. The collection contains many rare pieces that Dr Pepper lovers will enjoy. Across the street, you can tour the Dublin Bottling Works facility, which takes you through the historic and still-operating bottling line, and more memorabilia housed in what was the original offices of Dublin Bottling Works.
Today, Dublin has snuffed the name Dr Pepper, but it’s still a big part of this tiny town. Now that it’s not limited to geographical locations, Dublin Bottling Works produces amazing flavors that you can taste and buy today.
The new Dublin Bottling Works soda is available in Texas grocery chains and expanding, with the syrups made in the Dublin bottling plant. You can also order it online on the Dublin Bottling Works site.
The W.P. Kloster Museum and Old Doc’s Soda Shop is open, and I hope that you get the chance to stop by!
For More History and Information on Dublin Bottling Works
Hours and information on the W.P Kloster Museum and Old Doc’s Soda Shop can be found here.
We highly recommend the movie Bottled Up: The Battle Over Dublin Dr Pepper, a feature-length documentary about the history of Dublin Dr Pepper, the lawsuit, and its aftermath.