Once upon a time, before corn and corn byproducts made their way into everything that we consume, soda was made with sugar. (Mexican soda is still made with sugar, which is why Mexico is awesome.) We grow way more corn than we need, so we have to come up with creative uses for it. One of those creative uses is using high fructose corn syrup to sweeten soda. It works pretty well; it tastes sweet and will make you fat just as effectively as real sugar, but…it’s not real sugar. If your palate is naturally predisposed to snobbery, as mine is, you can taste the difference.
Soda made with sugar has a clean finish;
Soda made with HFCS has a weak finish
Dublin Texas is home to a Dr. Pepper bottling plant. The first Dr. Pepper bottling plant. When the front office decided that soda should be sweetened with corn instead of sugar, the folks in Dublin balked. They had been making Dr Pepper with sugar since 1891, and they didn’t see any reason to change things up. Since then, the legend of Dublin Dr. Pepper has grown; I first became aware of it in the late 90’s, thanks to the alt.beverages.drpepper FAQ (Ah, the early days of the internet…) and had wanted to sample it ever since. Because Dr. Pepper is the greatest soft drink known to man and Dublin TX is only 5 hours away, I went there.
Getting to Dublin takes effort. You have to really want to be there. Situated southwest of Ft Worth, Dublin is a picture perfect “Last Picture Show” style small Texas town. It’s the sort of place where asking directions is superfluous; everything is on the main drag. The Dr. Pepper plant itself is in a beige granite storefront, with large advertising murals on the side, and the world’s largest Dr. Pepper can in the parking lot. It’s charmingly underwhelming. This is, after all, a working factory, not a kitschy tourist trap. The factory tour is short but informative. This sort of thing always brings me back to watching the factory tours on Mr. Rogers as a kid; I had a definite flashback to watching orange crayolas roll off the line in the mid 1980s.
If you have a soft spot for the industrial machinery of the early 20th century, you’ll appreciate the vintage Dr. Pepper bottling machine on display, and if you’re fond of rooms completely covered in Dr. Pepper memorabilia, they have that too. the guides are friendly and helpful, and the gift shop has everything from T-Shirts celebrating the spat of UFO sightings in the area in 2008 to Dr. Pepper flavored beef jerky. The best part, however, is the Dublin Dr. Pepper itself. Drinking it for the first time is kind of like hearing the Beatles for the first time, or finding out that your dog suddenly can speak french. You loved your dog before, but now that you know it speaks french, it’s just that much more awesome. You can save yourself a trip to Texas and procure Dublin DP at either Pops on Rt 66 or International Pop inside Size Records, but if you’re a connoisseur of fine sugar water, it’s a worthy stop.