I guess it's just plain dumb luck that I happened to be drifting through tiny Dublin (population 4,000) on the one day a month delicious Dublin Dr Pepper is bottled. Now, for the uninitiated, Dublin Dr Pepper distinguishes itself from its Plano-based brethren in one key respect: It's made with Imperial Pure Cane Sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup.
I had no choice but to pull over and grab a sixer of The Real Thing. Then, when I found out they were bottling, I had to take a tour, of course.
First step in the process: Inspection. In many cases, they use a certain kind of bottle that simply isn't made anymore. Some of them are chipped, cracked or otherwise unworthy of becoming a vessel for the tastiest of Texas carbonated beverages.
Once they pass muster, it's off to the bottle washer. No, it isn't some guy with a rag and a bottle of Dawn. It's a machine the size of a Mac truck that was built in 1965. The plant bought it in '93. So covetous were the plant managers of this contraption -- which can wash 1,980 bottles at a time in highly alkaline soap and water heated to 160 degrees -- they didn't figure on the space they'd need for it. So they cut a big hole in the wall and there it sat ever since, cleaning and sterilizing the bottles from which we sip.
Next, the bottles pass through another inspection to check for cracks following the high-heat wash, and on to bottling. There, carbonated water and Dr Pepper's 23 flavors are injected. They're capped with 100 pounds of pressure, which explains the inspections -- some of the bottles apparently date back to the '30s -- bottler Melvin's protective eyewear and the Plexiglass wall behind which we were told to stand.
Each by each, the bottles pass on to another inspection, where they're backlit and their contents checked for consistency. By the end of this day, they'll have bottled 3,000. Until next month, we'll have to subsist on that.
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The final leg of the tour took me through the plant owner's substantial collection of Dr Pepper memorabilia, including posters of the then-risque Patriotic Girl -- the soda's wartime mascot. Back in the '40s, folks complained about her scanty clothing, so corporate ordered every poster of her destroyed. One was saved and is considered priceless. I'd include pictures, but we weren't allowed to photograph that part of the tour. What followed was Pretty Peggy Pepper, the more demure offering. The latest Peggy Pepper is a Tarleton State University student who dyed her hair blond. (Click this link for images -- that's Patriotic Girl on the left and Peggy Pepper on the right.)
And, in case you were wondering, no, the tour did not discuss Dublin Dr Pepper's legal dust-up with its parent company over the use of the Dublin prefix. Although, I couldn't help but notice that fat check on the wall.