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New Lawsuit Accuses Anheuser-Busch of Watering Down Beer

New Lawsuit Accuses Anheuser-Busch of Watering Down Beer



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Drinkers in 3 states claim that AB InBev is lying about the alcohol content in its Budweiser and other brews

We figure there are going to be a lot of wisecracks from the craft beer industry on this news: New reports say that a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Anheuser-Busch InBev, with consumers accusing the company of watering down its beer. (Looks like Maker's Mark isn't the only company to come under fire for watering down a beverage.)

The Associated Press and Bloomberg report that the $5 million suit was filed by consumers in three states, who say that AB InBev oversold the alcohol content in its most popular brands, Budweiser, Michelob, and others. The suit alleges that AB InBev has been adding water and CO2 to its malt beverages during the final stages of brewing, which decreases the alcohol content and violates a state statute on consumer protection. "AB’s customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and AB is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell," read part of the Philadelphia complaint obtained by Bloomberg. (Of course, no one's really sure how these complaints can tell that the alcohol content has gone down in the last few years.)

So far, the complaints are from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California; two more are expected from Ohio and Colorado. The complaints seek damages as well as a "corrective advertising campaign" to make up for the watered-down products. AB InBev has denied that the beer is watered down. Surely, there are other beers these people can be drinking, no?


Tears for beers: Anheuser-Busch accused of watering down US brews

The world's largest brewer has been accused of watering down beers in the US, including Budweiser and Michelob, in class-action lawsuits that seek millions of dollars in damages.

The suits, which have been filed against Anheuser-Busch in Pennsylvania, California and other states, claim consumers have been cheated out of the alcohol content stated on labels. Budweiser and Michelob each advertise a 5% alcohol content some "light" versions are said to be just over 4%. The lawsuits are based on information from former employees at the company's 13 US breweries, some in high-level plant positions, according to lead lawyer Josh Boxer of San Rafael, California.

"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," Boxer said. "It's a simple cost-saving measure, and it's very significant."

The excess water is added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3% to 8%, Boxer said.

Anheuser-Busch InBev called the claims "groundless" and said its beers fully complied 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 US and the world," Peter Kraemer, vice-president of brewing and supply, said in a statement.

The suit involves 10 Anheuser-Busch products: Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.

Anheuser-Busch, which is based in St Louis, Missouri, merged with InBev in 2008 to form the world's largest alcohol producer, headquartered in Belgium. In 2011, the company produced 10bn gallons (37.85bn liters) of malt beverages, 3bn (11.36bn liters) of them in the US, and reported $22bn in profits from that category, the lawsuit said. According to the lawsuit, the company has sophisticated equipment that measures the alcohol content throughout the brewing process and is accurate to within one-hundredth of a per cent. The lawsuit alleges that after the merger, the company increasingly chose to dilute its popular brands of beer.

"Following the merger, AB vigorously accelerated the deceptive practices described below, sacrificing the quality products once produced by Anheuser-Busch in order to reduce costs," said the lead lawsuit, which was filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of consumers. Companion suits are being filed this week in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and elsewhere. Each seeks at least $5m in damages.

The named Pennsylvania plaintiffs, Thomas and Gerald Greenberg of Ambler, said they buy six cases of the affected Anheuser-Busch products a month. They did not immediately return a message Tuesday, and Boxer would not elaborate on their purchases except to say the consumer-protection suit did not involve retailers or bar owners. One of the California plaintiffs, Nina Giampaoli of Sonoma County, said she had bought a six-pack of Budweiser every week for the past four years.

"I think it's wrong for huge corporations to lie to their loyal customers. I really feel cheated. No matter what the product is, people should be able to rely on the information companies put on their labels," Giampaoli said in a news release issued by Boxer's law firm.

In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Boxer said he had evidence to corroborate the former employees' allegations, but stopped short of saying the beers had been independently tested.

"AB [Anheuser-Busch] never intends for the malt beverage to possess the amount of alcohol that is stated on the label. As a result, AB's customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and AB is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell," the lawsuit said.


Budweiser May Seem Watery, But It Tests At Full Strength, Lab Says

Plaintiffs accuse Anheuser-Busch of misleading consumers about the alcohol content in Bud Light, Budweiser and other products. The brewer denies the claims.

Update at 7:35 p.m. ET: Beer Is At Full Strength, Tests Say

Samples of Budweiser and other Anheuser-Busch InBev beers were found to be in line with their advertised alcohol content, according to lab tests conducted at NPR's request. We've rewritten portions of this post to reflect that new information.

Anheuser-Busch is accused of misleading beer drinkers about the alcohol content of Budweiser and other products, in a series of class-action lawsuits filed in federal court.

"We're alleging that Anheuser-Busch systematically waters down its products," says Josh Boxer, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The brewer says the case has no merit.

Like many mainstream U.S. beers, Budweiser has long been accused of tasting watery and low-powered in comparison with strong and flavorful American craft and European traditional brews. But the lawsuit's main contention is not that a crime against taste has been committed.

The plaintiffs allege intentional "mislabeling" of at least 10 beers' alcohol content, after the brewer added water to boost the amount of beer produced from raw materials. They are seeking compensation for consumers.

"How would you feel if you paid premium prices for premium gas and were told that in fact, they were giving you the low-grade gas?" Boxer asks.

The lawsuit doesn't cite independent tests of the beers in question. Boxer says his information comes from former Anheuser-Busch employees.

Peter Kraemer, Anheuser-Busch InBev's vice president of brewing and supply, calls the claims "completely false" in an emailed response to the lawsuit. "Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws," Kraemer says.

Tests conducted on Budweiser, Bud Light Lime, and Michelob Ultra this week by San Diego's White Labs found that "the alcohol percentages inside the cans were the same as what was stated on the can," says analytical laboratory specialist Kara Taylor.

"Some of them were spot-on. Others deviated, plus or minus, within a hundredth of a percentage" — well within federal limits, she says.

Laboratory analysis of Budweiser found the beer was within federal rules in matching its advertised 5 percent alcohol content by a hundredth of a percentage. NPR hide caption

When told that a lab commission by NPR had tested several Budweiser samples and found them to match their labeled alcohol content, Boxer dismissed our test results, confident that when he gets his hands on Anheuser-Busch's internal testing, he'll still have a strong case.

On Twitter and other social media, news of the lawsuit was greeted by jeers and jokes about watered-down beer. But the practice of adding water to beer before it's packaged is common among large brewers. Called high-gravity brewing, it involves blending a potent brew with water.

The process is very efficient — and it can mean higher profits for companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer.

"In high-gravity brewing, you can make a lot more beer by stretching the beer that you have fermented," explains Dan Kopman, co-founder of Schlafly Beer, a craft brewery in Anheuser-Busch's ancestral home of St. Louis. (AB InBev is now headquartered in Belgium.)

Kopman says that adding water can help a brewer "stretch" the amount of the final product by at least 5 or 10 percent without changing the beer's flavor.

"This is primarily done in very large breweries, and it works well for lighter lager beers," he tells The Salt. "I would assume that all major brewers in the world high-gravity brew. It is not unique to AB."

As an example, Kopman says, Anheuser-Busch might brew high-gravity Bud, with an alcohol content of around 5.5 percent after fermentation.

"Then in packaging they will add deaerated water," he says, to achieve the desired flavor and alcohol content. Deaerated water has low oxygen levels, to help the beer "keep" on the shelves.

Brewers who use this process monitor alcohol content closely most also verify it with a lab test after packaging.

The class-action suit accuses Anheuser-Busch of purposefully deceiving consumers, and claims that the practice of watering down beer was "vigorously accelerated" after Anheuser-Busch merged with InBev to form a mammoth global corporation in 2008.

Two plaintiffs in the California suit, Nina Giampaoli and John Elbert, say they regularly purchased Budweiser over the past four years, taking the "stated percentage of alcohol into account" when they decided to buy the beer.

But Todd Alström, the founder of BeerAdvocate, says that while consumers want to know roughly how much alcohol is in a beer, the case is silly.


Budweiser Accused of Watering Down Beer in Lawsuit

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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Judge throws out watered-down Budweiser beer fraud claims against Anheuser-Busch

Chris Dodds/Flickr

Last Monday's dismissal of Re: Anheuser-Busch Beer Labeling, Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation​ – claimants cannot now bring an action on the same basis – by Donald Nugent in the US District Court in Northern Ohio, halts litigation originally begun in February 2013.

The court in Ohio had consolidated a series of multi-district class action involving plaintiffs from California, Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, which claimed that Anheuser-Busch used technology to ensure alcohol levels within 0.01%, and used it to water down beer.

Former ops director claimed he blew whistle on watery beer

An intriguing twist to the case centers on the fact that Anheuser-Busch's former operations director, James Clark, said he blew the whistle on the brewer's alleged watering-down of drinks, and in his new capacity as an attorney he worked with law firms representing consumers in the Californian class action.

He was sued on March 1 2013 by AB​, which denied his claims regarding watered-down beer, for misappropriating trade secrets, in a case still ongoing before the US District Court for the Eastern District of California.

In the original Californian filing on February 22 2013, for instance, plaintiffs Nina Giampaoli and John Elbert claimed that Anheuser-Busch’s alcohol statements were “based on its uniform corporate policy of overstating the amount of alcohol in each of AB’s products”​.

Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Lime under fire…

The claimants allege that 11 AB brands they bought between August 29 2009 and August 29 2013 were all under-strength – including Budweiser, Bud Ice, Mechelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice and Bud Light Lime (pictured).


U.S. lawsuit accuses Anheuser-Busch of watering down popular beer brands

PHILADELPHIA -- Beer lovers across the U.S. have filed $5 million class-action lawsuits accusing Anheuser-Busch of watering down its Budweiser, Michelob and other brands.

The suits, filed in Pennsylvania, California and other states, claim consumers have been cheated out of the alcohol content stated on labels. Budweiser and Michelob each boast of being 5 per cent alcohol, while some "light" versions are said to be just over 4 per cent.

The lawsuits are based on information from former employees at the company's 13 U.S. breweries, some in high-level plant positions, according to lead lawyer Josh Boxer of San Rafael, California.

"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," Boxer said. "It's a simple cost-saving measure, and it's very significant."

The excess water is added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3 per cent to 8 per cent, he said.

Anheuser-Busch InBev called the claims "groundless" and said its 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 bestselling in the U.S. and the world," Peter Kraemer, vice-president of brewing and supply, said in a statement.

The suit involves 10 Anheuser-Busch products: Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.

Anheuser-Busch, based in St. Louis, Missouri, merged with InBev in 2008 to form the world's largest alcohol producer, headquartered in Belgium. In 2011, the company produced 22 billion gallons of alcoholic beverages, 3 billion of them in the U.S., and reported $22 billion in profits, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, the company has sophisticated equipment that measures the alcohol content throughout the brewing process and is accurate to within one-hundredth of a per cent. But after the merger, the company increasingly chose to dilute its popular brands of beer, the lawsuit alleged.

"Following the merger, AB vigorously accelerated the deceptive practices described below, sacrificing the quality products once produced by Anheuser-Busch in order to reduce costs," said the lead lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of consumers in the lower 48 states.

Companion suits are being filed this week in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and elsewhere.

The named Pennsylvania plaintiffs, Thomas and Gerald Greenberg of Ambler, said they buy six cases of the affected Anheuser-Busch products a month. They did not immediately return a message Tuesday, and Boxer would not elaborate on their purchases except to say the consumer-protection suit does not involve retailers or bar owners.

One of the California plaintiffs, Nina Giampaoli of Sonoma County, said she bought a six-pack of Budweiser every week for the past four years.

"I think it's wrong for huge corporations to lie to their loyal customers -- I really feel cheated. No matter what the product is, people should be able to rely on the information companies put on their labels," Giampaoli said in a news release issued by Boxer's law firm.

Bloomberg News first reported Tuesday on the lawsuits.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Boxer said he has evidence to corroborate the former employees' allegations, but stopped short of saying the beers had been independently tested.

"AB (Anheuser-Busch) never intends for the malt beverage to possess the amount of alcohol that is stated on the label. As a result, AB's customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and AB is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell," the lawsuit said.


Beer drinkers accuse Anheuser-Busch of watering down brews

Beer drinkers in three U.S. states filed lawsuits accusing brewing giant Anheuser-Busch of watering down and mislabeling Budweiser, Michelob and other brands to cut costs.

The lawsuits, filed in the last week in California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said the brewing giant cheated consumers by listing a higher alcohol content than the beers actually contained.

Ten Anheuser-Busch products 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.

Former employees at the company’s 13 breweries -- including some in high-level positions -- are cooperating with the plaintiffs, said San Rafael, Calif., lawyer Josh Boxer, the lead attorney in the case.

“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,” Boxer said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s a simple cost-saving measure, and it’s very significant.”

The excess water is added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3% to 8%, he said.

Anheuser-Busch InBev called the claims “groundless” and said its 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, said in a statement.

Anheuser-Busch, based in St. Louis, Mo., merged with InBev in 2008 to form the world’s largest alcohol producer, headquartered in Belgium. In 2011, the company produced 22 billion gallons of alcoholic beverages, 3 billion of them in the U.S., and reported $22 billion in profits, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, the company has sophisticated equipment that measures the alcohol content throughout the brewing process and is accurate to within one-hundredth of a percent. But after the merger, the company increasingly chose to dilute its popular brands of beer, the lawsuit alleged.

“Following the merger, AB vigorously accelerated the deceptive practices . sacrificing the quality products once produced by Anheuser-Busch in order to reduce costs,” said the lead lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco.

Boxer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the plaintiffs did not independently test the alcohol content in the beers. That was a significant omission, said Eric Shepard, executive editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights.

“Right now, I’m skeptical,” Shepard told the Post-Dispatch. “Brewers and other large companies are often the targets of class-action lawsuits, and A-B wouldn’t have had its vice president of brewing Peter Kraemer come out with their statement if they weren’t confident in their standing.”


Anheuser-Busch alleges its secret beer recipes were stolen

(CBS NEWS) – Anheuser-Busch, the brewer of Budweiser, Michelob and Busch beers, is suing rival company MillerCoors, alleging in federal court this week that an Anheuser-Busch employee had leaked product recipe information.

Court documents filed Thursday include descriptions of a text message exchange earlier this year between an Anheuser-Busch worker and a MillerCoors employee who had formerly worked for Anheuser-Busch and was seeking recipe information for Busch Light and Bud Light.

“How much enzyme u adding to Bud Light?” the MillerCoors employee allegedly texted the Anheuser-Busch employee.

Anheuser-Busch officials said the company launched an internal investigation and found that the company’s employee had shared information about the company’s beer ingredients, the court documents state. The employee also shared specifics about the brewing process, the layout of a brewery control room and Anheuser-Busch marketing plans, the documents state.

Anheuser-Busch employees overseeing the brewing process sign a confidentiality agreement that includes a promise not to share ingredients even after a person has left the company, the company’s lawsuit says. The MillerCoors worker knew the Anheuser-Busch employee was sharing recipe details even though the person allegedly was under the agreement, Anheuser-Busch claims.

Anheuser-Busch officials say they’re trying to determine how widely their recipe has been shared.

“We filed in federal court claims alleging that MillerCoors violated state and federal law by misappropriating our trade secrets, including our beer recipes,” Anheuser Busch said in a statement. “We will enforce our right to uncover how high up this may reach in the MillerCoors organization. We take our trade secrets seriously and will protect them to the fullest extent of the law.”

A scene from Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light 2019 Super Bowl television ad that poked fun of rivals like Miller and Coors for using corn syrup in their beers.

In response, MillerCoors said Anheuser-Busch’s ingredients aren’t as secret as the company contends. The ingredients for Bud Light, for example, are accessible for anyone who buys a can, one official said.

“MillerCoors respects confidential information and takes any contrary allegations seriously, but if the ingredients are a secret, why did they spend tens of millions of dollars telling the entire world what’s in Bud Light, and why are the ingredients printed on Bud Light’s packaging in giant letters?” MillerCoors spokesman Adam Collins said in a statement.

The base ingredients for beer are a combination of yeast, water, hops and barley grains. Hops — both the kind and the amounts used — give each beer its distinct flavor, while grain gives a brew its color, aroma and part of its flavor.

Anheuser-Busch’s suit is the latest chapter in an ongoing legal fight between two of America’s most recognized brewing companies. The battle began in February when a Super Bowl ad for Bud Light accused Miller Lite of being brewed with corn syrup. MillerCoors responded with a full-page New York Times ad that playfully read, in part, “It’s unfortunate that our competitor’s Big Game ad created an unnecessary corntroversy.”

“However, we thank them for starting this conversation on such a big stage because it allows us to clarify the truth,” the newspaper ad stated.

MillerCoors went on to explain that the corn syrup is used in fermentation, which is a common practice among brewers both large and small.

“To be clear, corn syrup is a normal part of the brewing process and does not even end up in your great tasting can of Miller Lite,” the ad read.

A Wisconsin judge in March barred Anheuser-Busch from running ads that suggest Miller Lite and Coors Lite contain corn syrup. The judge then denied Anheuser-Busch’s motion to dismiss the case entirely.

Finally, last month, a federal judge told Anheuser-Busch to remove the words “No Corn Syrup” from its labeling.

“Anheuser Busch has lost three major federal rulings in this case and now they are simply trying to distract from the basic fact that they intentionally misled American consumers,” Collins, the MillerCoors spokesman, said in his statement. “As for their tired claims about corn syrup, the same residual elements they are talking about are also found in Bud Light and Michelob Ultra. If this is their argument, it’s no wonder they have lost three rulings in this case already.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Beer-Lovers Accuse Anheuser-Busch of Watery Brews

A multi-state lawsuit has been filed accusing Anheuser-Busch of watery beer.

Feb. 27, 2013— -- A pack of lawsuit are brewing around the country after angry beer-lovers accused the maker of "The King of Beers" of watering down its beverages.

Beer fans in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California and other states have filed suits against Anheuser-Busch InBev accusing the company of printing the incorrect alcohol content on its labels.

In a class action suit filed in a San Francisco court on Friday, the beer company is accused of intentionally "overstating the alcoholic content of its products" to increase profits.

"At the heart of any alcoholic beverage process is 'fermentation.' This process involves yeast converting certain carbohydrates into ethanol (intoxicating alcohol to humans), and CO2 (carbon dioxide for carbonation.) It is the expensive and time-consuming fermentation process that creates the alcohol content in the beverage, and it is this by-product, ethanol, which creates demand for alcoholic malt beverage. Hence, the economic incentive to 'water down' malt beverages," the suit claims.

Information on the can states that Budweiser and Michelob are composed of 5 percent alcohol, while the lighter versions come in around 4 percent.

"A consumer should be able to go in a store buy a can of beer of whatever brand they like and if it says on the label it's 6 percent alcohol. it should be 6 percent," said the plaintiff's attorney Robert Mills.

Other lawsuits have been filed this week across the country, seeking over $5 million in damages.

Behind the suit are former workers accusing the company of lowering the alcohol content during the final brewing stages by adding water.

The products included are Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice, Black Crown and Bud Light Lime.

In a statement to ABC News, Peter Kraemer, Anheuser-Busch InBev vice president of brewing and supply calls the claims "false" and the lawsuits "groundless."

"Our beers are in full compliance with all the alcohol labeling laws," said Kraemer, "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."

One lawyer for the plaintiffs has reportedly admitted his clients did not independently test the alcohol content in the beers before filing the lawsuit.

Budweiser beer is brewed in 12 locations nationwide. In 1867, founder Adolphus Busch began brewing a Bohemian beer that would later become Budweiser.

"Ultimately forensic testing is going to determine the alcohol content and that is what will decide the case," said legal analyst Dana Cole.


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