Thursday, March 07, 2013


This past weekend, I was looking at the "insights" section of the SheppyBrew Brewery Facebook page (please go like it if you have not already). I was shocked to see a big jump in the numbers of people "reached" and "talking about this".

Looking through the posts on the page for the week, it was easy to see that the article from 9, Suits: More water, less buzz in Bud, Michelob beer is what got most of the attention. You can go ahead and read the article if you want. The gist of the article is that Anheuser-Busch is defending itself from class-action lawsuits which accuse the company of watering down its beers.

I'm gonna assume AB is innocent until proven guilty on this one. Of course, I don't care. This does not affect me one way or the other. Quite frankly, people who are worried that Bud Light is "watered down" probably were not paying attention to begin with. Bud light is a watery beer. That is why most Bud Light "lovers" like the beer.

I am amused that what this comes down to is ...
"The excess water is added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3 percent to 8 percent."
According to the article, Budweiser is a 5% ABV beer. Even if the ABV is reduced by .08, the high side of the claim, the "watered down" beer is 4.6% ABV. That is less than 5 hundredths of an ounce in a normal 12oz bottle of beer.
That is less than I would expect a measuring error in my brewery. Granted, as a home-brewer, my method of measuring ABV is not the most sophisticated, but it is more or less the same way most craft brewers measure their ABV.

For example, lets say I brewed a 5% beer. For the purposes of this example, lets pretend my beer is called Khazad-dûm Black Lager. With my handy / dandy hydrometer, lets pretend I measure the Original Gravity of Khazad-dûm to be 1.050. I let the wort ferment out into a beer, and right before kegging or bottling, I take a Final Gravity (FG) reading with my handy/dandy hydrometer and come up with 1.012. I plug these two numbers into a formula and get my ABV to be exactly 5%.

But, if I travel back in time, and look at my hydrometer again, I think I could make a case that the wort was actually 1.052 OG. Since the precision of the lines on the hydrometer are .002, I think it is reasonable to read the instrument .002 higher. And lets say at the time I take the FG, I think it is actually 1.010 rather than 1.012. All of a sudden, Khazad-dûm is a 5.5ABV beer.

If I read .002 low on brew day and .002 high on kegging day, I could easily see coming up with a 4.5% Khazad-dûm Black Lager.

I try to be consistent in how I read the hydrometer,  so chances are good that I always read high or always read low, so my actual range of the Alcohol measurement error is most likely much tighter than that. And granted, professional brewers (especially those who work at Goliath-sized AB / InBev) have more sophisticated measuring devices. Still, though, I don't consider the difference in a 5% and 4.6% ABV Budweiser all that significant. Heck, on their typical 12-pack Friday night, these Bud drinkers are going to spill more alcohol than they think is being diluted from this alleged "watering down".

To be honest, I think that if the complaint is about ABV (alcohol by volume), the plaintiffs are completely missing the point. To say you were "cheated" out of .4% ABV is dumb. Personally, I would be much more upset about the reduction in beer flavor.

Of course, if the typical Bud drinker was concerned with flavor, they would not be drinking a BMC beer to begin with. I have a quote that I put on some of my beer bottles that says, "People who drink light 'beer' don't like the taste of beer; they just like to pee alot." I do think that is true.

Just for the record, I do not believe the accusations in this class-action lawsuit at all. I don't like most of their products, but I do think that when they say they are making a 5% beer, they are actually making a 5% beer. In fact, I've said before and truly believe that the big BMC brewers do a great job at making exactly the beer they want to make over and over again.

Anyway ... if nothing else, my SheppyBrew Brewery Facebook page got a little bit of attention thanks to this. That is cool.

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