Budweiser May Seem Watery, But It Tests At Full Strength, Lab Says
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
NPR's business news starts with lawsuits for Anheuser-Busch.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MONTAGNE: OK. Cue the watery beer jokes, several lawsuits filed in the last week claim that beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev dilutes its beers to save money.
NPR's Dan Bobkoff has more.
DAN BOBKOFF, BYLINE: I found a Bud Light Lime sitting in NPR's fridge.
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BOBKOFF: It says on the bottle that it contains 4.2 percent alcohol by volume. But a series of class-action lawsuits claims Anheuser-Busch is lying. Josh Boxer, a lawyer in California, is counsel for the plaintiffs.
JOSH BOXER: We're alleging that Anheuser-Busch systematically waters down its products.
BOBKOFF: By how much? Boxer claims that if a Budweiser's label says it contains five percent alcohol, it's actually more like 4.7 percent.
The complaint names ten beers, including Bud Ice and Michelob Ultra. It alleges that watering down is a uniform corporate policy. In an emailed statement, the company called the cases groundless, and completely false. The class actions were brought in multiple states on behalf of beer-drinking consumers, who Boxer says, don't like to be ripped off.
BOXER: How would you feel if you paid, you know, premium prices for premium gas and were told that, in fact, they were giving you the low grade gas?
BOBKOFF: For allegedly deceiving consumers out of a little bit of booze, the suit calls for the company to pay damages and change its practices. Boxer says it's unnamed former Anheuser-Busch employees who came forward to make the allegations.
But there's one thing Boxer and his legal team never did: actually test the beer. So, we did.
KARA TAYLOR: OK. So the beers have to be de-carbonated and then...
BOBKOFF: We paid White Labs in San Diego to test three Anheuser-Busch Beers: Budweiser, Bud Light Lime, and Michelob Ultra.
Kara Taylor is the analytical laboratory specialist. How confident is she in the results?
TAYLOR: I'm 100 percent confident in our results.
BOBKOFF: And, how did the beers do?
TAYLOR: So, after it was analyzed, we saw that the alcohol percentages inside the cans were the same as what was stated on the can.
BOBKOFF: One, the Michelob Ultra, was spot-on perfect, a difficult feat she says. So, I called back Josh Boxer, the lawyer. He dismissed our test results, confident that when he gets his hands on Anheuser-Busch's internal testing, he'll still have a strong case.
Todd Ahlstrom, the founder of BeerAdvocate, says, of course, consumers want to know roughly how much alcohol is in a beer, but he says this case is silly.
TODD AHLSTROM: I don't think it truly matters with most people out there.
BOBKOFF: Nevertheless, the lawyer says expect more suits soon against the maker of Bud.
Dan Bobkoff, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.