2 Investigates: "Watered down" beer at Bay Area ballparks?

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- Several well-known beers sold at A's and Giants baseball games have a lower alcohol content than what is advertised for those brands, according to results from an FDA accredited lab after 2 Investigates collected samples from the O.co Coliseum in Oakland and AT&T Park in San Francisco.

When asked about those results, two major beer manufacturers confirmed they offer light beer kegs with two different alcohol percentages to distributors who supply the stadiums. The Giants told KTVU they choose the lower alcohol kegs, when offered, as part of an overall effort to control alcohol consumption.

The Test

KTVU's Eric Rasmussen visited both of the Bay Area's ballparks in April and purchased ten beers -- five at each stadium. Some fans have long questioned whether the beer at games was the same as what they get at a bar or the store.

"It doesn't taste like the normal (beer) I drink out of the can," said one fan.

Working with Anresco Laboratories of San Francisco, Rasmussen followed strict instructions from the lab, pouring two samples of each beer into small glass vials and kept them on ice. 2 Investigates immediately delivered the sealed samples to the lab on the same day, soon after they were collected.

Lab technicians used a process called Gas Chromatography to determine the alcohol by volume (ABV) of each sample.

The Results

2 Investigates received the results of the beer collected from both ballparks about a week later.

From the Oakland Coliseum:

Bud Light (draft):

    4.2% advertised ABV

    3.7% actual

    Stella Artois (draft):

    5.0% advertised

    4.9% actual

    Coors Light (draft):

    4.2% advertised

    3.9% actual

    Fat Tire (draft):

    5.2% advertised

    5.1% actual

    Bud Light (aluminum bottle):

    4.2% advertised

    3.9% actual

From AT&T Park:

    Bud Light (draft):

    4.2% advertised

    3.8% actual

    Anchor Steam (draft):

    4.9% advertised

    4.3% actual

    Coors Light (draft):

    4.2% advertised

    4.0% actual

    Blue Moon (draft):

    5.4% advertised

    5.5% actual

    Shock Top (draft):

    5.2% advertised

    5.4% actual

Eight out of ten beers tested by 2 Investigates came back with alcohol levels lower than advertised. Three of the eight were low enough to fall outside federal requirements that alcohol content be within 0.3% of the advertised ABV. Bud Light draft beers from the Coliseum and AT&T Park tested outside of that range, as well as San Francisco beer, Anchor Steam.

Anchor Brewing declined to comment on the results.

Two beers -- Blue Moon and Shock Top -- had test results with alcohol readings slightly higher than advertised.

Oakland Coliseum concessionaire, Ovations, referred KTVU to the individual beer manufacturers.

MillerCoors explained that kegs of Coors Light used at the ballparks may not be identical to kegs of the same brand elsewhere.

The company e-mailed the following statement to KTVU:

    "MillerCoors makes both 4.0% ABV and 4.2% ABV Coors Light kegs available to our distributors, who then sell those kegs to concessionaires. In this case, the 4.0% ABV Coors Light kegs were sold to the concessionaires.

    We have rigorous brewing standards and requirements, and we stand behind the quality of our beers. ABV test results can vary based on several factors including sample collection and storage prior to analysis, method of analysis, analytical error and keg to keg variability. Since we did not test the samples ourselves, we cannot verify KTVU's findings. That being said, the ABV results of our products that KTVU has shared with us are within the permitted ABV variances allowed by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau)."

Anheuser-Busch, which owns three of the beers tested by 2 Investigates, also confirmed it offers both 4.0% ABV and 4.2% ABV light beer kegs in California.

The company e-mailed the following statement from Regional Vice President, Bary Benun:

    "Anheuser-Busch offers a variety of brands and packages to meet the needs of retailers and consumers. Our beers are monitored and tested throughout the brewing and packaging process to ensure the highest quality. We take great pride in our beers, all of which fully comply with federal and state laws.

    Many variables could have affected KTVU's results, including management of the sample, the equipment used and how it's calibrated, and the testing method."

Fans Disappointed

2 Investigates shared its results with fans of both beer and baseball, tailgating outside the Coliseum.

"I would've never have thought that," said A's fan, Charlie Cruz.

With beer prices often topping ten dollars at the ballpark, some fans said every drop counts.

"You're not really getting what you paid for," said Johnny Allen.

The San Francisco Giants issued the following statement to KTVU:

    "The safety and enjoyment of our fans is our top priority, and we expect our partners and guests to take steps to create and maintain a safe and fun environment. We work in collaboration with our concessionaires to ensure that the extensive beverage program at AT&T Park upholds legal standards concerning alcohol service and management - from pricing and product selection to size and quantity limits, as well as ID checks and service end times."

The Giants concessionaire, Centerplate, also responded to KTVU's request for a comment with a written statement:

    "Concessions stands at AT&T Park operate in accordance with state and federal laws pertaining to alcohol service and guidelines. Of the 60 options available at the ballpark, two Light varieties of the draft beer sold at stands are approximately 4.0% alcohol by volume, as supplied by the distributors according to the breweries' quality and brand standards. We remind fans to drink responsibly and remain committed to the safe service of alcohol at the Park."

A spokesperson for Centerplate could not confirm which two brands of light draft beer are offered with the lower (4.0% ABV) alcohol content.