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Welcome To Texas: Dublin Bottling Works

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(CBS11) - Many Texans may already know that Dr Pepper was created in Waco in 1885, by a pharmacist at a corner drug store.

But they may not realize that the first place to ever bottle Dr Pepper was in the Erath County town of Dublin. And it did so-- until four years ago when a lawsuit forced it to stop production.

Dublin Bottling Works has seen a lot of change in its 125-year history, from the way it originally bottled Dr Pepper in 1891 to the way it transported it. But the one thing that's remained constant: its choice of sweetener.

"What we use is granulated Imperial Pure Cane Sugar. It's really not just sugar. It's sugar in its purest form," said Kenny Horton, Head Soda Jerk at Dublin Bottling Works and company spokesman.

He says in the 1970's, when all the other Dr Pepper plants began the switch to the more cost-effective high-fructose corn syrup, Dublin was the hold-out. The plant's longtime general manager and eventual owner, W.P. Kloster, refused to change.

"It wasn't a health thing, it wasn't trying to fill a niche thing like that," said Horton, "it was really, when it comes down to it, it was because he loved pure cane sugar Dr Pepper, and he didn't want to sacrifice taste for a cheaper product."

It became known as "Dublin Dr Pepper"-- and it was that branding, in part, that eventually prompted Plano-based Dr Pepper-Snapple to file a lawsuit in 2011. It claimed that having the name "Dublin" above the Dr Pepper logo diluted the brand.

"We fought the lawsuit for about six months. However, they're a very large company, we're a small company," said Horton. "It wasn't beneficial for us to continue fighting that lawsuit, and that's when we shifted over full force to our own line of drinks."

The company now makes 13 different soda flavors, but there's one that seems to stand out for longtime fans of Dublin Dr Pepper-- it's called Dublin Original Black Cherry.

"That's our best flavor," said Horton. "It's very, very good."

Dublin Bottling Works
Dublin Bottling Works (CBS11)

And another big plus for the now-independent company? It's now got a much longer reach.

"When we were a part of Dr Pepper," said Horton, "we had this little tiny 44-mile distribution radius to where we could only go to stores within that area, and the only way a store might have it outside that area, is if they came and purchased it from us and took it back to their store."

Now, Dublin's sodas are sold in grocery stores all over Texas, and even in a few other states.

The company is growing quickly, but its aging bottling equipment presents some challenges.

"Our newest piece of equipment on our line right now is from 1965, so not exactly a brand new operation," said Horton. "The top speed is about 25 bottles per minute." Compare that to facilities with new equipment, which can produce 1,500 to 2,000 bottles per minute. Dublin Bottling Works' oldest machine is about 90 years old.

The company hopes to upgrade its bottling facilities soon, and in so doing, hire back some of the employees it was forced to lay off after its split with Dr Pepper.

It also wants to bring back to Old Doc's Soda Shop some of the visitors who thought it had closed its doors. From old-style fountain drinks to Blue Bell ice cream shakes and floats, the soda shop offers something for just about everyone, and many people will find it's well worth the drive.

Old Doc's Soda Shop and Dublin Bottling Works is located at 105 E. Elm in Dublin. It's open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Tours of the historic bottling facilities and W.P. Kloster Museum run every 45 minutes. Tour tickets are $5 for adults, and $4 for children and seniors.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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