Is Seattle Seahawks Stadium Watering Down Fans’ Beer?

Even though a lot of overpriced beer that football fans buy ends up on the stadium floor (or on other fans), you should get what you pay for, right? One news report out of Seattle claims that the beer at CenturyLink Field — home to the Seahawks — is serving beer that doesn’t live up to the advertised alcohol content. However, the beer makers deny they are watering down their product, and there are several unanswered questions about the accuracy of this study.

The folks at KOMO News went to CenturyLink and collected small samples of six different beers for analysis by an outside lab.

According to the lab, each of the six samples was slightly under the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage advertised.

Federal law only allows for a tolerance of .3 percentage points between a beer’s stated ABV and its actual. If the lab results are accurate, only the Stella Artois (5% advertised; 4.8% tested) and Bud Light (4.2% advertised; 3.9% tested) samples fall within that tolerance range.

Meanwhile, the lab claims that the other samples were all outside the range allowed under the law, with the Bass Pale Ale coming in at 4.5% instead of the advertised 5.1%, and Budweiser bringing up the rear, at only 4.4% instead of the 5.0% advertised ABV.

But watering down beer isn’t the same as thinning out booze or wine with water or other fillers. A bar-owner can open up a bottle of vodka, gin, whisky, etc., and simply add other liquids. The kegs used at CenturyLink and other stadiums aren’t as easy to mess with.

The stadium would have to be getting special kegs from the beer companies with the watered-down brew, which isn’t outside the realm of believability given how much beer an NFL stadium serves in a season.

Neither the stadium nor its concessionaire would comment to KOMO, but the two beer companies whose products were tested deny any wrongdoing.

Anheuser-Busch, which owns five of the six brands (and owns a 1/3 share in the parent company of the other), tells KOMO that the beer sold to CenturyLink is the same as you’d “purchase at bars, restaurants, convenience stores and other retail locations.” AB’s own tests found “no irregularities” in ABV for these beers.

The other company, Redhook Brewery, says it has never been asked to provide watered-down beer to a customer and that doing so would be deceptive and “violate standards and protocols.”

What troubles us about the KOMO test is that there doesn’t appear to be any control testing of these same beers — all of which are readily available at bars in the Seattle area — from non-stadium venues to see if the CenturyLink beer was lower than what you’d get elsewhere.

A control is really necessary to determine if the stadium beers are indeed different than the beer being produced for bars and for retail. It’s also needed to gauge whether the lab’s testing methods are accurate and sound.

We also question the logic behind the “stadium keg” theory. CenturyLink and its concessionaire might have the buying power to require that a beer company create a slightly different version of its brews, but why use your leverage to demand a special order when you can employ it to just lower the wholesale price on the regular stuff?

UPDATE: In a statement to Consumerist from David Craig, Regional Vice President, Anheuser-Busch, the company defends itself and takes exception with some of the reporting in the KOMO story.

“We sell only full-strength beer in the state of Washington,” writes Craig. “The Anheuser-Busch draft beers offered at CenturyLink Field, and throughout the state, are the same as the packaged beer consumers purchase at bars, restaurants, convenience stores and other retail locations including CenturyLink Field.”

Craig says that AB abides by all state and federal regulations, and that the company follows “federal guidelines regulating our products to make sure every package of beer that leaves our breweries meets the correct specifications for alcohol content.”

He reiterates that the company’s own analysis of the beers involved in the KOMO story showed no irregularities.

“Based on our findings, we believe the draft beers sampled at the stadium during those dates met the specifications,” writes Craig, who claims that AB offered to have the KOMO reporter meet with a company “brewing expert” to discuss the lab’s findings and how to test for ABV.

“Beer has unique properties, and accurately measuring its alcohol content requires specific controls, equipment and expertise,” says Craig. “A large number of variables could affect testing results including management of the sample, equipment used and how it’s calibrated, and the testing method. In this case, the collection and transport using a plastic container, the lab and testing method could all fail to protect the alcohol content, which would explain the same variance in all samples taken.”

[via Eater]

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