When someone who appears to be under the legal drinking age attempts to buy alcohol, the person selling the alcohol should ask them for ID. If it turns out the customer is old enough to buy the alcohol, they will proceed with the sale. If it turns out that the customer is too young, they will be denied service.
The reason for this system is obvious: Every country where alcohol is legal has a set age that you must reach before you are legally allowed to purchase alcoholic drinks. Showing ID is how you prove that you are of legal drinking age, and how the retailer or bar ensures it is complying with the law.
So, if the need to show ID is all about alcohol content, do you need to show ID when buying non-alcoholic beer, which is not legally classed as an alcoholic drink?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes. When buying non-alcoholic beer, you may still need ID!
If you are under legal drinking age (or look like you might be) you are likely to be asked for ID when buying non-alcoholic beer, even though it contains little or no alcohol (less than 0.5% ABV).
This might seem strange at first, but there are actually two very good reasons why non-alcoholic beer is age restricted and why ID is often needed to buy it.
Why Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Age Restricted?
There are two reasons why non-alcoholic beer is age restricted:
- To avoid encouraging children to drink beer.
- To make it simpler for staff to know when to ask for ID.
It’s worth noting that neither of these reasons have anything to do with the amount of alcohol in the drink.
Non-alcoholic beer cannot make you drunk and it contains less than 0.5% alcohol, which is the same amount as fresh orange juice. We don’t age-restrict orange juice because of its alcohol content, so we don’t age-restrict non-alcoholic beer due to its alcohol content either.
Non-alcoholic beer is age restricted because it would otherwise encourage children to drink beer, and because it makes it simpler for sales staff to decide when to ask for ID.
Let’s look at each of these reasons in more detail.
Not Marketing Beer To Children
The first reason why non-alcoholic beer is age restricted relates to how it is usually branded and marketed.
Often, non-alcoholic beers are modified versions of full-strength beers, made by the same breweries. This means that allowing young people to purchase non-alcoholic beers would indirectly promote the brewery and its alcoholic products.
For example, if a child was allowed to buy Budweiser Zero, because it doesn’t contain alcohol (0.0% ABV), this familiarises them with the Budweiser brand at a young age and could lead them to want to drink full-strength Budweiser before it is legal for them to do so.
Another factor is packaging. Like their alcoholic counterparts, non-alcoholic beers often feature visually appealing, colourful packaging that is likely to appeal to children. If non-alcoholic beers were not age-restricted, breweries could (rightly or wrongly) be accused of deliberately marketing their non-alcoholic drinks to children in order to make them more inclined to buy full-strength beer in the future.
Clearly, attempting to hook children into drinking beer like this would be unethical and potentially harmful for an easily influenced young person. Instead, breweries, retailers and bars follow a policy of not selling alcoholic beer to minors and applying the same age restrictions to non-alcoholic beers as they do to alcoholic drinks.
Simplifying ID Rules To Avoid Mistakes
The second reason why you might need ID to buy non-alcoholic beer is that it is easier for a bar or retailer to ask for ID every time anyone buys any kind of beer than it is for them to check the alcohol content of every drink purchased.
Retailers place non-alcoholic beers in the same section as alcoholic drinks and the branding of non-alcoholic beer is often almost identical to the equivalent alcoholic version. If the retailer did not require ID for non-alcoholic beer then there would be a significant risk of staff accidentally selling a full-strength beer to someone who is under age.
For example, if some teenagers went into a store and bought two boxes of beer, with similar packaging but the first being non-alcoholic and the second being full-strength, it would be easy for the member of staff to accidentally sell them the alcohol.
Of course, retailers could put systems in place to carefully check which beer is non-alcoholic, but why would they take that risk? Especially when you consider that they don’t want to sell non-alcoholic beer to children anyway (see reason one, above), it’s much easier to simply require ID for all types of beer, whether it contains alcohol or not.