The makers of Budweiser faced accusations on Tuesday of watering down the popular American lager in search of higher profits, in a class action lawsuit flatly rejected by the brewery.
The beer-drinking plaintiffs alleged that Anheuser-Busch is violating consumer protection laws in California and Missouri by "falsely representing the alcohol content of the products it sells."
The lawsuit, which demands unspecified "compensatory damages" for anyone in the United States who has bought Budweiser products in the past five years, was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Friday.
"I think it's wrong for huge corporations to lie to their loyal customers," said one of the plaintiffs, Nina Giampaoli, in a press release Tuesday from the Mills Law Firm, one of two firms involved in the lawsuit.
"I really feel cheated. No matter what the product is, people should be able to rely on the information companies put on their labels."
From its headquarters in Saint Louis, Missouri, Anheuser-Busch -- a core unit of ABInBev, the globe-girdling Belgian-Brazilian brewing conglomerate -- rejected the allegations.
"The claims against Anheuser-Busch are completely false and these lawsuits are groundless. Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws," said Peter Kraemer, its vice president of brewing and supply.
"We proudly adhere to the highest standards in brewing our beers, which have made them the best-selling in the United States and the world," he added in an email to AFP.
The lawsuit alleges that Anheuser-Busch can produce "a significantly higher number of units of beer from the same starting batch of ingredients" by watering down its product.
"As a result, Anheuser-Busch's customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and Anheuser-Busch is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell," it claims.
Besides Budweiser, which is marketed as "the King of Beers" with five percent alcohol by volume, the lawsuit alleges that Anheuser-Busch waters down nine other brands including Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum and Michelob.
Over the weekend, the distillers of Maker's Mark abandoned plans to reduce the alcohol content of its popular bourbon by three percentage points to 42 percent in response to an outcry from whiskey tipplers on social media.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that it is "unclear in the complaints how the plaintiffs determined the alcohol content was less than stated. Boxer said the complaints are based on information from former workers at some of the company's 13 U.S. breweries."