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Diatribe: Watered Down Beers.

02/27/2013

beer_bottles_1361913170979_379240_ver1_0_320_240When I was a struggling college student a six-pack of cheap beer could be had for as little as two dollars.  I think we bought Hamm’s Special Light at a liquor store that was just “off campus” and we certainly got what we paid for.  The beer was hardly “full” and when others joined us for a drink they usually brought their own.  Most thought the cheap stuff we bought was “weak and watery”.  I didn’t care.  At the time I figured that bad beer was better than no beer.

This week, beer drinkers in three states filed lawsuits accusing Anheuser-Busch of watering down and mislabeling Budweiser, Michelob and other beer brands to cut costs.  The lawsuits, filed in California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, allege that the brewery cheats consumers by listing a higher alcohol content than the beers actually contain.

Ten beers were named in the lawsuits: Budweiser, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.

“Our information comes from former employees at Anheuser-Busch, who have informed us that as a matter of corporate practice, all of their products [mentioned in the lawsuit] are watered down.  It’s a simple cost-saving measure, and it’s very significant.” – Josh Boxer, lead Attorney

Water is allegedly added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3% to 8%.

Of course, Anheuser-Busch calls the claims “groundless” and that their beers fully comply with labeling laws.

“Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws. We proudly adhere to the highest standards in brewing our beers, which have made them the best-selling in the U.S. and the world.” – Peter Kraemer, Vice President of Brewing and Supply

There are hundreds of different beers available to consumers today at prices ranging from the inexpensive Natural Light or Icehouse to the extravagant Vielle Bon Secours of London that costs more than $700 per bottle.

I find it doubtful that this lawsuit has any merit.  Surely, a company as big as Anheuser-Busch has covered all the bases.

My theory, when it comes to beer and wine, has always been “You only taste the first glass, so start with the good stuff!”

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15 Comments
  1. I thought all American beer was watered down?!!?

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    • I only taste the first one. As long as it’s super cold, I really don’t care. But I DO hate false advertising.

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      • I agree. They’ve been around for a long time and know the business well. I’m confident that there’s a disclaimer somewhere (there’s always a disclaimer, right?) that addresses the issue.

        Thanks for reading!

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  2. howardly70 permalink

    I think AB likely covered their legal bases, enough to justify this approach. Consider the recent announcement by maker’s mark to water down their bourbon. They since cancelled that plan but shows how such things do occur. If your goal is to maximize production, you can either add more fermenters or concentrate your recipe and add water later. If the alcohol content of the beer in the bottle is not what is labled on the bottle, i think they have a case, legal or not. At least for a settlement.

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  3. In college I loved watered down beer. I’d down a case of Natty Light and be all, “My tolerance is SO awesome! I can drink a whole case and barely feel drunk!”

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  4. Ah – the joke in Sweden goes thusly: “How is Budweiser like making love in a canoe?”
    ….
    “Because it’s f*cking close to water!”

    ba rump bump 😉

    Anyway….yeah, I am sure they have covered their bases and um..just don’t buy their products folks! I haven’t since at least the last year of college in the early 90s. Yes, I hate false advertising and if, for some reason, they didn’t dot every i, then get them! But truly – it doesn’t much taste comparison to know that their product is crappy.

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  5. My economics professor used to describe diminishing marginal return in terms of beer consumption after running. That first beer is oh so good. The next one is good. The third one is pretty good….and so on. After about three, you could serve watered down beer and most would not be able to tell the difference. Good canoe joke, though. BTG

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  6. I’ve never liked beer at all although sometimes on a very hot summer day when you just have to cut the grass, there’s nothing to quench your thirst like a beer. When I knew this was going to happen I would prepare in advance by pouring beer into a glass filled to the rim with ice. But then I am talking Canadian beer here, not the weaker American stuff.

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  7. I wouldn’t put anything past big businesses. They are certainly capable of cutting costs enormously by simply adding a tiny bit of water to every beer. Personally, I never experienced this in the USA. However, when I used to go on camping trips to Mexico, I could easily drink a case of Tecate and have absolutely no hangover the next morning. This used to baffle me. Considering I was in my teens and normally a six pack back home would lead to a nasty headache the next day. I would swear that those Tecates were water…that were watered down…with beer.

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