Budweiser's 'Watergate': Anheuser-Busch Accused Of Diluting Beer

Three class-action lawsuits have been levied against Anheuser-Busch, suing the company for over $5 million on the claim that the company is cheating consumers by watering down its beer.

The claims cite statements from former brewery workers, who state that Anheuser-Busch routinely adds water to their beers. Anheuser-Busch uses “process control technology” to monitor and ascribe the alcohol content of its beers while they are being produced. After producing but just before bottling the beers, the Anheuser-Busch breweries allegedly add water to the beer, reducing the alcohol content and “depriving consumers of the value they paid for.”

Lawyers say that the watering down of beers can result in beers that contain 3% to 8% less alcohol than their labels indicate. Multiple brands are indicated in the suits, including Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Bud Light Lime, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Black Crown, Natural “Natty” Light, its redneck cousin, Natural Ice, and the King of Beers, Budweiser. Bud Light could not be watered down more to make the list.

The uproar around this case should be expected. The fundamental claim of these suits is that the value that Anheuser-Busch beers offer consumers is alcoholic content. If compared to the recent Maker’s Mark watering-down scandal, Marker’s Mark drinkers were furious that reducing the alcoholic content of the bourbon would zap its taste and kick. Maker’s Mark quickly responded to the uproar, deciding not to change the recipe for their bourbon. However, the Anheuser-Busch cases are less concerned with the overall quality of Anheuser-Busch beers than the fact that the company is allegedly reducing the alcohol in them. Most Anheuser-Busch beers are similar to making love in a canoe (they are, ahem, “making love” near water), and the beers listed are normally consumed for effect, not taste.

Most consumers would likely not mind if Anheuser-Busch’s beers tasted more watery as long as they delivered on the booze. They may, in fact, appreciate Anheuser-Busch heightening the celebrated superb “drinkability” of its products, meaning the company could play these suits to their advantage. If the company upped booze to calorie ratio of its beers at the cost of its products’ spectral taste, the company would create the perfect array of popular beer brands. Husbands everywhere could enjoy their lawn-mowing/La-Z-Boy beers — Budweiser and Michelob — while maintaining trimmer figures and the manly image derived from swilling diesel beer!

Varieties for drinking as its own objective such as your average weekend bender, day-drinking marathons, and beer pong, flip cup, funnel races, and other fratletics — Bud Light, Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Platinum, Natty Light — would still deliver the good times; but freshman would only gain ten! Finally, there would still exist America’s favorite beers for celebrating your latest eviction or hazing pledges — Bud Ice, Hurricane High Gravity, and King Cobra! All the booze, half the sadness! The only brand that might need to go is Michelob Ultra. That would depend on whether people would still want to flaunt their “ultra” lifestyle if the beer’s recipe were no different than Bud Light’s (he author has never sipped nor seen Black Crown, nor met anyone who has).

While there will always be a market for popular fermented grain water, Anheuser-Busch and similar companies are losing market share to craft and micro-breweries that create a tasty, rich beverage known as beer. However, Anheuser-Busch will do itself no favors offending the gullets of their bedrock customers by diluting the alcohol in their beers. It should stick to its strength: producing weak beer that serves as an efficient alcohol delivery method.

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Warren Bishop

Gadabout. Educated in English, philosophy, and art history; working in technology and entrepreneurship. Avid reader, outdoorsman, and bon vivant.

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