A new class action lawsuit filed in courts around the country is accusing Anheuser-Busch of adding water to its beers in the final stages of bottling.
"Because water is cheaper than alcohol, AB adds extra water to its finished products to produce malt beverages that consistently have significantly lower alcohol than the percentage displayed on its labels," the complaint reads. "AB is able to produce a significantly higher number of units of beer from the same starting batch of ingredients."
The suit names Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice, Black Crown and Bud Ice Lime as the affected brews.
There have been three similar filings so far, one in New Jersey, one in Philadelphia and one in California. The California complaint was filed on behalf of two consumers, Nina Giampaoli and John Elbert, who claim they were Bud drinkers for years before discovering that their beer was watered down.
Lead attorney Josh Boxer tells Gut Check that they're basing the allegations on the word of several former Anheuser-Busch plant workers. He declined to identify them or say which breweries the informants worked in.
"During AB's 'finishing adjustment process,' the last process the malt beverage undergoes before it is bottled, AB waters down its products, 'shaving' the total alcohol content," the suit claims.
"This is a matter of corporate practice," adds Boxer.
Boxer says there should be another filing in Missouri by the end of the week.
Gut Check left a message with Anhesuer-Busch and has yet to hear back, though A-B InBev vice president of brewing Peter Kraemer already told Bloomberg that the allegations are "completely false" and that "our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws."
Boxer says that he intends to prove his case with A-B's own meticulous records, which he says will show the brewery knew the beers were weak and sent them out the door anyway. He hopes to obtain those files in discovery; for now the case relies on the word of the former employees.
"Consumers shoud be able to rely on what A-B tells them," says Boxer. "By watering down the beer, A-B is able to save tens of millions of dollars on ingredient costs -- that's all out of your pocket and my pocket."
Each of the suits is asking for more than $5 million in damages. Read the full complaint below: