Not enough buzz in Buds, claim Montco bros in suit

Posted: February 27, 2013

On the surface, it's a lawsuit that seeks to prove the punchline to "Why is American beer like having sex in a canoe?"

(You'll have to Google the answer.)

Thomas and Gerald Greenberg of Montgomery County say the Budweisers they've been drinking haven't had the advertised kick.

The brothers Greenberg assert Anheuser-Busch has been watering down their beer to less than the 5 percent alcohol content the mega-brewer prints on their Budweiser labels.

They've been doing serious research to buttress their claim. According to the suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Thomas has been drinking two cases a month of the bland lager. That's nothing compared to brother Gerald; the suit says he's been drinking four cases a month.

"Plaintiffs took [Anheuser-Busch's] stated percentage of alcohol into account in making their purchases and would not have purchased AB's malt beverages had they known that AB's representations were false," the suit states.

They're seeking upward of $5 million in damages. (Which would buy more than a few bottles of Dogfish Head's craft brews, if they're successful).

The Greenbergs say that brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, which controls about 40 percent of the U.S. beer market, intended to "deceive customers" by watering down its products, "'shaving' the total alcohol content."

A spokesman for Anheuser-Busch told Bloomberg.com the charges were "completely false."

"Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws," Peter Kraemer e-mailed Bloomberg's Sophia Pearson. "We proudly adhere to the highest standards in brewing our beers, which have made them the best-selling in the U.S. and the world."

Josh Boxer is a Californian lawyer who is coordinating multiple weak-beer suits. He told Inquirer Business columnist Joseph N. DiStefano there's proof.

"We know because Anheuser-Busch takes several readings in each line in each brewery 24 hours a day" and uses the data to water the beer down to, or below, the promised alcohol content," said Boxer.

"We've spoken with former employees who have confirmed" that beer often leaves the plants with a little less than 5% alcohol, saving "tens of millions of dollars a year by substituting high-quality ingredients with the cheapest ingredients, which is water," Boxer added.

The Greenbergs are seeking class action status in Pennsylvania for their suit. If status is granted, millions of drinkers would be invited to the party.


Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796, @samwoodiii or samwood@phillynews.com.

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