Budweiser Has Been Sued 3 Times for Watering Down All Those Watery Beers

A group of new lawsuits contends that Budweiser brands, from Bud Light Platinum to Michelob Ultra, make the beer giant the king of watered down beers. Somewhere, beer snobs are snickering — maybe even to the tune of $15 million.

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There are some beer snobs who already think Budweiser is a lesser beer. The company contends it's the "King of Beers." But a group of new lawsuits contends it's the king of the watered down beers. Somewhere, beer snobs are snickering — maybe even to the tune of $15 million.

The last thing anyone wants when he gets home from a day's work is a watered down beer. You want to settle down with a nice, crisp cold one to let off some steam. But three separate lawsuits filed in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and San Francisco contend AB InBev's Anheuser-Busch Cos. add extra water to their finished product — 11 brands in all — to stretch the quantity of alcohol the company can supply, Bloomberg's Sophia Pearson reports. So, the beers are being sold at a lower alcohol content than advertised, which are the main thrust of the lawsuits, each of which seek damages over $5 million.

The alleged beers being sold at a lower alcohol content than advertised are:

  • Budweiser
  • Bud Ice
  • Bud Light Platinum
  • Michelob
  • King Cobra
  • Busch Ice
  • Black Crown
  • Bud Light Lime
  • Hurricane High Gravity Lager
  • Natural Ice
  • Michelob Ultra

For at least two of the beers on the list, alcohol content is pretty much the entire reason for existing. Black Crown and Bud Light Platinum are stronger-than-your-average Budweisers. Part of the beers' advertising hook — Black Crown is new, with a 2013 Super Bowl ad and all — is that they're 6 percent alcohol by volume. Budweiser is advertised and labeled at 5 percent AbV. Bud Light is said to have 4.2 percent AbV.

Watering down alcohol seems to be a kind of outrage du jour, though. Bourbon brewer Maker's Mark got itself into a hot toddy recently when it announced it was going to water down its supply to fight off potential shortages. Outrage ensued, and the company reversed its decision. The lesson: Don't mess with a product people already love. Especially crazy whiskey fans.

This is different from the Maker's Mark controversy, though. The beer is allegedly watered down across the board. The plaintiffs — including one guy who bought a case of Michelob Ultra a month, for some reason — allege that the public doesn't know what all the beers under the Budweiser umbrella really taste like, and that they're not getting their money's worth. There is no science backing up the defendants' claims, and AB InBev has yet to respond in court. The krux of the evidence comes from "information from former workers" of Anheuser-Busch breweries who claim watering down the beer in post-production is a company policy. The lawsuit's evidence could be politely described as sparse. Former employees (especially disgruntled ones) are not always the best witnesses. Anheuser-Busch denies it, obviously, and it shouldn't effect AB InBev's planned merger with Grupo Modelo, forming the biggest beer company in the world.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.