Tag Archives: dublin dr pepper

Dublin Bottling Works: a blatant endorsement

Nearly eighteen months ago, the Dublin Bottling Works in Dublin, Texas lost its license to make the official all-sugar Dr. Pepper that kept its factory in business for years. If you want a perfect example as to why I’ve lived in Texas as long as I have, and why I keep moving back, it’s because the state constantly keeps producing people and organizations that keep fighting. Most companies, faced with that big a loss of income, would have just shut down everything. The Dublin Bottling Works not only retooled, but improved upon its original situation. Forget that old saw about “when given lemons, make lemonade.” When it comes to Dublin sodas, the lemonade is, actually, nowhere near as exciting as everything else.

All of this came up during last weekend’s trip to the Czarina’s family’s ranch in West Texas, when we stopped at the farmer’s market in Weatherford. Near the front register was a brand new cooler for Dublin drinks, and the Czarina and I figured that bringing a representative sample to the family might make their having to tolerate me a tiny bit better. For the purposes of experimentation, we grabbed one of every flavor available, and arrived with 12 fresh bottles, chilled and ready to go. Over the rest of that Saturday, the clan tasted, drank, and chugged every last bottle, on the condition that they shared their observations with us. The verdict:

Dublin Tart & Sweet Lemonade

Tart & Sweet Lemonade: For years, I wondered why soda bottlers had such problems with canned or bottled lemonade, with the flavor always being inadequate to freshly-made. When the US standard for bottled lemonade is Country Time, an alleged beverage that works quite well for killing fire ants and stripping the corrosion off car battery terminals, it’s hard to believe that many varieties are even worse. Not to say that Dublin’s Tart & Sweet is bad, but it lacks “lemon” to go with the “ade”. I could see this making an exceptional mixer, but since I can’t drink alcohol, that’s purely academic. C-

Dublin Orange Creme

Orange Creme: Now we’re getting somewhere. Cream sodas don’t get enough credit as sodas intended to be sipped, not chugged. Therefore, I can’t recommend this as a drink of choice in any circumstance where a quick and thorough body core temperature drop is necessary. On a quiet night in front of a campfire, though, it has just the right balance between tart and sweet, and a smoothness that actually makes you upset when you’ve finished the bottle without realizing it. A-

Texas Root Beer

Texas Root Beer: Not too much sassafras root. Not too much vanilla. Not too much carbonation. Try one bottle, and you’ll put that bottle of IBC back to use for killing weeds growing up through the sidewalk. This one had half of the family fighting the other over who got the rest of the bottle. A+

Dublin Rummy

Rummy: While the lemonade barely tasted of lemon, the grapefruit flavor of Rummy stands out and tears through your pockets looking for spare change. For those of us who enjoy grapefruit sodas, this is the undisputed king. Amazingly enough, though, it’s not overly sour, and the genius who developed this flavor deserves a raise. A+

Dublin Vanilla Cream

Vanilla Cream: As mentioned elsewhere, the fact that such a sublime and complex flavoring as vanilla became a synonym for “boring” and “average” is a borderline crime. Vanillin, one of the main components of vanilla, is now so heavily overused in food and perfume that most people have no idea what real vanilla should taste like. They definitely don’t know what a vanilla cream soda should taste like, as those went out of style over 50 years ago. (The closest most ever experienced was the Vanilla Dr. Pepper released for a very short time in 2002. The best things that could be said about the flavor usually involves the Ig Nobel Awards.) The most obvious sign of this came when my youngest niece took one sniff of an open bottle of Dublin Vanilla Cream and exclaimed “It smells like medicine.”

Yes, but does it taste like medicine? Not a bit. All of Dublin’s cream sodas emphasize the main flavors over the cream, and if you’ve never smelled handmade vanilla orchid extract, take a sniff of a bottle of the Vanilla Cream to get a good idea. Now I need to get a tub of ice cream, preferably Blue Bell, and a case of this and make ice cream sodas for friends until they pop. A

Dublin Blueberry Breeze

Blueberry Breese: The Czarina and I have an old and dear friend who has been engaged in a mad and futile quest for as long as we’ve known her. Poor Madelyn is obsessed with finding blue food. Not purple food. Not violet food. Blueberries are only marginally blue thanks to the natural waxes growing on their skins, and they’re not blue at all when cooked. After dropping blueberries, what’s left? You have a lot of blatantly artificial items with lots of blue food coloring, all with a flavor unlike anything else found on this planet. Don’t believe me? Have a friend or cohort slip you a “blue raspberry” candy when you’re not waiting for it, and then try to identify the flavor. The standard flavorings listed as “cherry,” “strawberry,” and “banana” on most candy in the US might have waved at a produce truck on its way to a grocery store, but “blue raspberry”? You might have grown up with a fruit growing in your back yard that tastes like blue raspberry candy…maybe, if you’re a Vorlon.

The best thing that can be said about Dublin’s Blueberry Breese? It’s blue. Vibrant blue. Brilliant blue. Blue the likes of which will burn holes in your retinae. The blue of lost summer mornings, the blue of a perfect birthday, the blue of joy and wonder and gentle sadness over days long gone. If there’s any blueberry in this, though, I’m not sure. C

Dublin Cheerwine

Cheerwine: The unimaginative might compare Dublin’s Cheerwine soda to the closest general analogies available in commercial soda distribution: Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola’s Pibb Xtra. That’s like comparing truffle oil to mink oil and coal oil. The only thing Cheerwine has in common with the other two sodas is use of cherry flavoring with other, unnamed flavors, but it’s considerably more subtle than those other two. The use of real cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup may have something to do with this, but I like to think that the individual who developed and confirmed this flavor was a genius. A+

Dublin Cherry Limeade
Cherry Limeade: Yet another hit among everyone, as it had both the advantages of fresh-squeezed limeade taste and excellent carbonation. A

Dublin Vintage Cola
Vintage Cola: Much as with vanilla, cola is a horribly abused flavoring, to the point where most people associate “cola” with the caramel coloration, not with the actual flavor. Not that this is an issue with Dublin’s Vintage Cola, so it’s worth the effort to see what real cola can taste like. B+

Dublin Retro Grape

Retro Grape: The assessment by the kids: not bad at all. The assessment by the adults: a little too sweet. When buying cases of the other flavors, pick up a six-pack of this, but its popularity depends on how much the kids like grape soda. C

Dublin Retro Creme

Dublin Retro Creme: Saying that Faygo sodas are about as endemically Michigan as Petoskey stones isn’t an exaggeration. Saying that Faygo Red Pop was a preferred alternative to Communion wine for many Michiganite Catholics, well, that’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one. For years, I took every opportunity to try to describe this elixir of the gods to the Czarina, but was at a loss: you can’t find Faygo in Texas, it was impossibly expensive to ship in the days before the Interwebs, and the local “alternative”, Big Red, was as much of a viable alternative as using used motor oil in place of blood plasma. I figured that if the Czarina was to understand why this made such an impression upon me as a kid, we’d have to make a trip back to my ancestral spawning grounds.

That was before picking up some of Dublin’s Retro Creme. This isn’t just great cream soda. This is loyhargil. In fact, this makes a great argument for a serious alternative to a classic Texas dessert, replacing the main ingredient with Retro Creme and pointing one particular phalange in the direction of Dr. Pepper’s current management. I’ll let you all know how it turns out. Off the Scale

The Doom That Came To Dublin

I have to admit that, in my advancing years, I get increasingly tired of the foofarol concerning defunct cultural institutions when said institutions died for rational reasons. Namely, the crying and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over restaurants, stores, and other venues that died because potential patrons were being sentimental about them instead of, say, actually buying something. Much of this hatred comes from my science fiction writing days, where every magazine that shut down was greeted with the hysterics expected from the deaths of rock stars or celebrity chefs. Never mind that if the magazine’s fans actually bought a copy, or read anything other than the submissions guidelines page before defecating into the slushpile mailbox with their latest Absolutely Fabulous/Farscape fanfiction, said magazine might actually still be around.

In a few cases, not only do I understand the urge, but I join in the mourning. Today is the day Dublin Dr. Pepper stopped production.

It’s hard to explain to non-Texans why a carbonated soft drink should be such a big deal, except for the fact that it was everywhere. For a very long time, the company was a major employer in the Dallas area, with its main bottling plant on Mockingbird Lane. Dr. Pepper was hyped as a hot as well as cold beverage in the Fifties, and you could still find little electric cup heaters with the logo (for dunking into a coffee cup) in garage sales when I moved here. Just about every venue that featured a soda dispenser had Dr. Pepper as a selection, and until about 1982 or so, asking for a “Coke” really meant you were getting a Dr. Pepper unless you said otherwise. It was even an official sponsor of the Dallas Cowboys, long before current Cowboys owner Jerry Jones turned that credit into a joke.

And yes, I bought into it as well. When Coca-Cola went into its ill-fated fling with New Coke in 1985, I became a Dr. Pepper junkie. One of the many reasons I moved back to Texas in 1986 was because of Dr. Pepper: I was so miserable in Wisconsin that I spent many an hour in a horrible Burger King in downtown Appleton solely because that Burger King had Dr. Pepper on tap. Friends wanting to make bar crawls or concert runs just had to deal with the fact that I wasn’t drinking anything stronger than DP, and I think I managed to evade getting stomped at one of the last shows at the famed Theater Gallery in Deep Ellum outside of downtown Dallas because the skinheads saw that I was more straightedge than they were.

Times change, and they didn’t necessarily get better. The Dr. Pepper plant on Mockingbird was shut down shortly after the company was bought by what is now Dr. Pepper/Snapple/Cadbury, with lots of promises to renovate the historic landmark as a shopping mall or other general attraction. Those promises were lies, and the building was demolished in 1997. (I’d make all sorts of snide and perfectly accurate comments about the apartment building that went up in its place, but that always leads to at least one SMU brat crying about how mocking rich cokeheads, particularly with words of more than one syllable, is “class warfare”.) Long before then, the recipe changed from using actual cane sugar to the omnipresent high-fructose corn syrup, with a corresponding loss of flavor.

Six years ago, the Czarina’s family and I made a summer vacation trip to Banff, Alberta, and everyone was shocked at how good Dr. Pepper tasted in Canada. I explained that it was because it was bottled in Canada, a country that neither subsidized its corn industry nor tried to embargo Cuba. The vast majority of the supply of this ambrosia in the US uses the loathed HFCS, but the tiny town of Dublin, Texas was allowed to sell Dr. Pepper with real Imperial cane sugar. It shouldn’t be any surprise that locals and visitors, given a taste test, were willing to pay premium prices for Dublin Dr. Pepper, and it should be even less of one that we addicts were willing to travel to get our hits. For one niece of mine, she forswore most birthday presents so long as we showed up with a six-pack of Dublin Dr. Pepper, in glass bottles, so she could ration it out while back in college.

And how does this involve a horticultural blog? Well, aside from the Texas history, it came down to a personal issue. Considering extensive and deep budget cuts to Texas schools and libraries, I understand all too well that lecturer speaker fees take money from already nearly nonexistent budgets, and I’d rather have that speaking money go into books, supplies, and teacher goodwill. Hence, when it comes to public schools and libraries in the North Texas area, my speaking fee for Triffid Ranch lectures was always the same: one bottle of Dublin Dr. Pepper, preferably cold. It’s not quite on a par with Iggy Pop and the Stooges’s concert rider, but I like to think that I’m paying back just a little bit for the terror I inflicted when I was a student.

That was then. With the announcement that the Dublin bottler is shut down, with the corresponding loss of jobs to the Dublin area, I’m not just cutting out Dr. Pepper consumption in general. I have to find a new currency for school lectures. I’d go back to an old friend but the Eighties, but Jolt Cola is now made with HFCS instead of cane sugar, so what’s the point?