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CenturyLink Field is selling watered-down beer, KOMO TV claims

KOMO TV tested stadium draughts and found significantly lower ABV than advertised. Testing variance, quality control issues, or "alcohol management" conspiracy?

Marcus Hahnemann will not be pleased.  No, this is not CenturyLink Field.
Marcus Hahnemann will not be pleased. No, this is not CenturyLink Field.

KOMO's "Problem Solvers" team bought several types of beer during both Sounders and Seahawks games, and smuggled out samples to have tested at an independent lab. The results showed beer from Bud Light to Red Hook's No Equal Amber Lager to contain anywhere from 4 percent to nearly 12 percent less alcohol than the manufacturers claim.

Here are the numbers from KOMO's story (numbers are Alcohol By Volume):

Stella Artois: 5.0% advertised 4.8% tested

Bud Light: 4.2% advertised 3.9% tested

Redhook Brewery No Equal: 5.2% advertised 4.8% tested

Shocktop: 5.2% advertised 4.7% tested

Bass Pale Ale: 5.1% advertised 4.5% tested

Budweiser: 5.0% advertised 4.4% tested

According to KOMO, selling beer with an ABV that differs from its advertised level by more than 0.3 percentage points is against federal law.

The story draws a connection from their findings to a 2008 "exposé" of San Diego's Petco Park when the Padres officials admitted to ordering kegs of "3.2 beer" for the stadium to manage fans' alcohol consumption during games.  This raises the question of whether Sounders and Seahawks home games are subject to the same anti-belligerently-drunk-fan tricks.

Although in typical TV-news style KOMO got plenty of quotes from annoyed fans who will be "prefunking" a little more now, the investigation has several issues and the results are anything but conclusive.

In order to show that stadium kegs were any different from others, it would have been simple for the station to test pints of the same beer from bars around the city, which they apparently did not.  Further, there is no way to know if the testing process of KOMO's chosen lab (IEH in Seattle) is different from the brewers' methods.

Another possibility is that both Red Hook and the Anheuser-Busch beers (that's the rest of them besides No Equal) have quality control issues causing their brews to have a high variance in alcohol content.

For their part, the two breweries denied selling beer for CenturyLink that differed from the stuff that comes out of the taps at any other watering hole.  They would have to produce a completely different line of lower-alcohol beers just for the Seattle stadium or somehow "water it down" after the brewing process, both of which seem unlikely.

As far as the Padres precedent, beer with 3.2 percent ABV is a normal product made by the macrobreweries for the handful of states that won't allow grocery stores and convenience marts to sell anything stronger (can confirm, lived in Minnesota).

If all the Royal Brougham Park beer came back at about 3.2 ABV, then I think we'd have a story.  As it is, let's just say more investigation is needed before we revolt.

On the other hand, maybe there is an intricate patented First and Goal Watering-Down System® that introduces a small but varying amount of H2O into the stream of beer as it passes from the keg into the very expensive plastic cup?


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