Excel Bottling Company produces flavored soda using cane sugar, returnable bottles, and vintage bottling equipment. The county’s favorite soft drink, Ski, was added in 1961 and accounts for the majority of soda produced. We are one of a few remaining “mom & pop” bottlers left in the nation and the only returnable bottling line left in Illinois. Aside from bottling soda, the plant produces syrup for use on fountain equipment.
Edward “Lefty” J. Meier and Catherine Meier founded Excel Bottling Company in the summer of 1936. Lefty had used the reward money that he obtained from catching a bank robber to purchase a used bottling machine. At the time, Lefty started bottling soda, two other soda plants were operating in Breese, IL. The Excel bottling plant and attached household were originally owned by Catherine’s grandmother (Mrs. Goellner) in which she had previously operated a general store.
Edward Meier passed away in 1996 and his wife Catherine continued to do the bookwork until age 97. Catherine recently passed away at age 99. She was quoted saying, “Eddie and I built our business selling one case of soda at a time.” Her spirit lives on through her sons and grandchildren.
As a huge fan of craft beer, Excel Bottling Company manager Bill Meier took advantage of new distribution laws in Illinois that allowed craft breweries to self distribute and established Excel Brewing Company in 2012. With the knowledge and passion of Rod Burguiere, a former brewer at Stone Brewing Company in California, the company has brought hoppy, West Coast style beers to the midwest, as well traditional German style lagers that celebrate the heritage of the Southern Illinois and St. Louis region.
Flavor concentrates are selected from different extract houses. We have shopped around over the years to find the best flavors on the market. We also blend and mix flavors in unique ways. For our non-diet drinks, we use 100% pure cane sugar for our sweetener. Tartness comes from the fruit acids like citric and malic. Flavors are protected with benzoate of soda.
We use a dual filter system which removes any sediment and chlorination from the municipal water supply. Each flavor requires a different level of carbonation. Soda is carbonated with CO2 dissolved in water which provides some additional tartness. The Dixie Filler has a both a syruper and capper located along a dial. After the precise amount of syrup is added to the bottle, it is filled with carbonated water and then capped. Bottles are individually agitated and then placed into wooden crates.