Hard and Soft Drinks
Ah, drinking and driving, a fine summertime repastime. As embibliophiles will attest, there is nothing so pleasurable as visiting the home of your favorite beverage, then hoisting some in self-congratulation.
Independent bottlers may have beefs with their Corporate syrup maker, but both share a love of the product. At Coca-Cola Bottling of Elizabethtown, KY, is Schmidt's Coca-Cola Museum, where you can drown yourself in the history and lore of America's most popular soft drink. Mr. Schmidt receives no corporate support for his hobby, but that hasn't stopped him and his wife from amassing the largest privately-owned collection of Coke memorabilia anywhere, including an entire hand-painted Coca-Cola barn side they had disassembled and shipped from Marietta, GA.
The site where Coke was first bottled in 1894 is now the Biedenharn Candy Company Museum, Vicksburg, MS. Housed in the original building where Mr. Biedenharn performed his remarkable deed, the museum features a reproduction of the bottling works, a working 1900s soda fountain, and a special "Christmas and Coca-Cola" wing.
The sobering aftertaste of Coke's origins can be found in Columbus, GA. You can visit the grave of Dr. John Pemberton, inventor of Coca Cola and alleged morphine addict, and a reproduction of his pharmacy.
Pepsi Galactic Pavilion
Pepsi may be the choice of a new generation, but as soon as they get their driver's licenses, Pepsi's going to lose them. Aside from a state highway marker in New Bern, NC marking the site where "Brad's Drink" was first made, there is no Pepsi salute, corporate or otherwise, anywhere. When we went to the top to get to the bottom of this, PepsiCo flacks invited all to the lovely sculpture garden at its Purchase, NY headquarters.
Weird Ass Rebel Beverages
Dr Pepper may not be the big seller that C and P are, but it has its share of devoted fans, especially in the Lone Star state, where there are two museums. There is a Dr Pepper museum in Dublin, Texas, in the 1891 bottling plant that was DP's first franchise. The plant still used pure cane sugar instead of artificial sweeteners, but a legal fight between the corporate owners of Dr Pepper and the Dublin bottlers ended that in January 2012.
In Waco, TX -- the original hometown of THE Dr Pepper -- a museum in a 100-year old bottling plant (which served as company HQ from 1906 to 1923) houses a scaled-down reconstruction of the original drug store where this soft drink was first served. Trace Dr. Pepper history from medicinal drink to soda pop!
Barq's Root Beer was created in 1898 and remained a family owned business based in Biloxi, Mississippi.Coke bought it out in 1995 and turned it into the nation's leading root beer. A historical plaque was installed in 1998 on Keller Avenue where it all started; the restored Barq building may open as a museum.
Now let's talk about some real soft drink fanatics. Moxie Headquarters, Lisbon Falls, Maine is not where the bitter medicinal drink is made. In fact, the soda's manufacturer will have nothing to do with their fanatical followers. Instead, it is a privately runsoda shop where memorabilia is sold. While some compare Moxie to drinking a carbonated Fig Newton, it still appeals to a band of New Englanders who have a yearly Moxie festival at this site. The same group helped create a home for the giant Moxie Bottle House in Union, Maine that opened to the public in 2009.
An original Moxie Car -- with fake horse with steering wheel -- can be seen at Clark's Trading Post, Lincoln, New Hampshire.
Kool-Aid was born in Hastings, Nebraska, and today the building in which it was first concocted is the home of Bob's Electric. No display here, but the Hastings Museum has Kool-Aid artifacts including rare early packets and a Kool-Aid cartoon suit worn by its jug mascot. A large interactive exhibit tells story of Kool Aid and inventor Edwin Perkins.
The World's Largest Six Pack
Plant tours. Free beer. Most breweries have both, and the Heileman Brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin, was typical -- a hardworking, mid-sized brewery with a tour. But they'd also painted six of storage tanks to resemble Heileman's Old Style beer cans, calling it the World's Largest Six Pack. The Brewery was eventually sold, closed, re-opened, and after a period of giant six-pack uncertainty, the cans were redecorated in 2003 with the new owners' La Crosse Lager labels.
Across the street from the cans looms the statue of Gambrinus, "King of Beer" -- a 5th century duke credited with supporting farmers in growing grains and hops and other pro-beer activities.
But what about harder drink? In Kentucky or Tennessee, you're in luck. The Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky, still makes its famous bourbon whiskey. No tours, but there's a documentary film, some commemorative decanters, and America's oldest moonshine still.
The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in nearby Bardstown has a collection of whiskey-obilia that spans 500 years of distilling tradition. Of special note is an exhibit on Carry Nation, the hatchet-wielding temperance queen -- and a Kentuck' native. [We've also seen her celebrated at a memorial drinking fountain in Wichita, Kansas]
A tour of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg will not get you looped because, ironically, Moore County, Tennessee, is dry. Jack Daniel's is made in a little hollow north of town, where it always has been, as Jack Daniel's employees will proudly attest. You'll see the white oak barrels, the charcoal brickyard, the fermentation vats. You'll also see the famous life-size statue of Mr. Daniel, as well as the old safe that got him so mad because it wouldn't open that he kicked it and broke his toe and it became infected and he died.