Are Children Allowed to Drink Nonalcoholic Beer? It’s Kind of Complicated

There are now more low and no-alcohol beers available than ever before, so drinkers who want a less euphoric beverage can rejoice. Does eliminating all ( , or most ) of the alcohol from an IPA or Pilsner allow kids to drink nonalcoholic beers? This is a question worth exploring. After all, actress Kristen Bell revealed that her daughters (8 and 9 years old) enjoy nonalcoholic beer and order it in restaurants.

What are the rules for minors purchasing and drinking nonalcoholic beer?


Can children drink nonalcoholic beer?

Generally, yes. Even those with a “less than 0.5% ABV”, which technically may contain alcohol, are acceptable to minors. These beers do not fall under the federal government’s definition of beer as defined in the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which states that “Alcoholic beverages are beer, distilled spirit, and wine containing a half of 1% by volume or more of alcohol.” Beer includes ale, lagers, porters, brews, sakes, and similar fermented drinks brewed from malt.


As long as NA beer does not exceed that half-percent ABV, despite the name on the label, it is not “beer”. It is therefore legal for anyone under 21 to consume it — at least federally.


According to a summary of state laws provided by the nonalcoholic beverage website One Club Sober, three states, Mississippi, North Dakota and Ohio, only permit nonalcoholic beer consumption for adults 18 years and older. In 14 states, minors are not allowed to drink nonalcoholic beer.

Kansas, for instance, prohibits consumption of “cereal malt beverages” after fermentation. Since most nonalcoholic beers contain cereal malt, they do undergo fermentation, but not to the extent that makes them boozy. Therefore, Kansas’ law prohibiting such consumption would appear to apply to alcohol-free beer.


You’ll want to make sure you check the local and state laws in your area to determine which ones apply to you.


Can minors purchase nonalcoholic beer?

Here’s where it gets more complicated. Minors are not allowed to buy nonalcoholic beer in some states of the United States. However, this is not the case everywhere. There are federal laws and, as with other alcohol laws, state rules that govern the sale, shipping, serving, and consumption of liquor. Each state, or even each county or city could have their own rules regarding the sale and serving of nonalcoholic beer to minors.


According to One Club Sober, 17 states prohibit the purchase of nonalcoholic beers by anyone under the age of 21 (and the minimum age for purchase in Ohio is 18). As a general rule, if your state permits minors under 21 to drink nonalcoholic beer then it is also permissible for minors to buy it. It’s another matter whether a child feels comfortable doing so in a liquor or grocery store.


Why is the drinking age 21 years old?

It is believed that raising the drinking age to 21 will save lives. According the CDC states that increased the minimum drinking age to 21 experienced a 16% median reduction in motor vehicle fatalities. Averaging 3,900 deaths a year, minors who drink too much alcohol are responsible for the overconsumption.


Before the 1984 enactment, the NMDA was the legal drinking age in many states. This coincided with the minimum age for voting (and being drafted into the military). In response to studies showing an increase in motor-vehicle deaths when drinking ages are lowered, and pressure from advocacy groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the NMDA passed in 1984 to create a minimum national age for purchase and possession of liquor.


Can minors legally consume alcohol?

Yes, in some cases, minors are allowed to drink alcohol. Contrary to its name “Drinking”, the NMDA actually prohibits anyone under 21 from purchasing alcohol or possessing it in public. In some states, such as Colorado, Maryland, Montana New York, Texas Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, minors are allowed to consume alcohol in private with consent from a parent or legal guardian who is over 21. And in Ohio, Louisiana Massachusetts and Texas minors may even drink alcohol in public if a parent or legal guardian of the minor’s age consents. This is complicated by the fact that each restaurant has its own policies regarding serving minors alcohol.


Other states such as Alabama, Arkansas Idaho, New Hampshire and West Virginia, however, prohibit minors from consuming alcohol.


There are exceptions, however, for religious and medical reasons. The NMDA, as it is currently enforced, excludes minors who possess alcohol for religious reasons, when accompanied by a legal guardian, parent or spouse over 21, or when consumed by a doctor, pharmacist, dentist or nurse in a hospital or medical facility, or when used medically by a physician, pharmacist or nurse.


The decision is up to the caregivers.

Parents and guardians must do their own research and check local and state laws to determine if their child is allowed to drink nonalcoholic beer. They should also consider the possible effects of this decision. There’s a lot to learn about this latter aspect. A recent study in Japan , published by the National Institute of Health, found that adolescents were more likely to drink alcohol if they consumed nonalcoholic drinks that mimicked alcohol. This is certainly something to think about.