Do You Need An ID To Purchase Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Non- and low-alcoholic drinks have become more and more popular, with several refreshing options available and a market size that has been steadily increasing since 2018. It's become much easier to come across a six-pack of Bud Zero while walking through the store, leaving you to wonder, "Should I have brought my I.D. with me?" Your inner voice is likely responding in the negative. Without the alcohol, it's just juice or something, right?

Wrong. Non-alcoholic beers, despite the name, are still regulated under the Federal Alcohol Administration (FAA) Act. Because the FAA Act regulates all malt beverages irrespective of alcohol content, non-alcoholic varieties still live under the generic "beer" umbrella. (Whether non-alcoholic wines and spirits require I.D. or not is a bit murkier, but based on anecdotal accounts of folks working in retail, most stores operate under a policy that requires proof of age.)

Of course, every state is different. Check the rules for your location — you may find that things are a little more lax (or strict!) depending on where you are. For example, some states allow for the purchase of non-alcoholic beer under the age of 21, while others do not; Oregon, West Virginia, and Wyoming stand out because they only apply this rule if the drink contains at least 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV), while Ohio is the sole state that requires you to be over 18, not over 21.

Non-alcoholic beer is not the same as alcohol-free

You may be looking at the 0.5% rule and thinking, "Wait, does that mean that non-alcoholic beer is still kind of alcoholic?" The answer is yes. Most non-alcoholic beer contains up to 0.5% ABV, hence the 0.5% rule adhered to by some states. There are certain drinks that are entirely free of alcohol, such as Heineken 0.0, but for the most part, you can expect to be consuming a small amount. This is likely fine if you're drinking non-alcoholic-free beer fairly casually, but if you're aiming to go completely sober, then you will need to take care when looking for the right brand.

If you want to be sure, check the label. There's a difference between "non-alcoholic" and "alcohol-free" – only beer with 0.0% ABV can be labeled as alcohol-free. In fact, in order to acquire this label, breweries must send a sample of the drink to the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). If you're unable to find an alcohol-free option or want to know exactly how much you're consuming, you should be able to find the exact percentage printed on the bottle.