Do Beer Sites Really Keep Track of Your Birthday?

Is it a legal requirement, a liability issue, or something else?

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Man drinking large stein of beer
Photo: Johannes Simon (Getty Images)

I spent most of last week scouring the Budweiser website for Clydesdale information. Upon navigating to the homepage, I received a familiar pop-up: “You must be of legal drinking age to enter this site.” I am very much of legal drinking age, so I entered my birthdate and proceeded with my important horse research. If you spend as much time on Beer Internet as I do, you know that the age-specific pop-up is a common sight. But I’ve never stopped to ask: Why do brewers ask for your birthdate, anyway?

At first, I assumed that it was some sort of legal measure. (Admittedly a flimsy one—it’d be very easy to list my date of birth as 6/9/1969 if I, a notorious pervert, were so inclined.) After a quick spin through a few brewery websites, I realized it’s probably not a legal requirement; Mother’s Brewing, a mid-sized brewery in my hometown, has the pop-up, but I didn’t see it when I visited the websites for Half Acre Brewing or Spiteful Brewing, two of my Chicago favorites.

So, what’s the point? Curious, I DMed John Carruthers, Takeout contributor, pizza dad extraordinaire, and communications manager for Revolution Brewing (which does have the age-restricted pop-up, for the record). He confirmed that the website pop-up isn’t a legal requirement; rather, he described it as a professional code matter. Turns out, macro breweries (the big guys; Budweiser, et al), adhere to different marketing codes than smaller breweries. Here’s what I found out with John’s help.

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Macro brewery website guidelines

Macro breweries like Budweiser fall under the Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code. There’s a ton of interesting stuff in here; for example, the decree that “beer advertising and marketing materials should not depict Santa Claus.” Regarding the matter at hand—age-restricted brewery websites—the code dictates that “brewers should employ the perspective of the reasonable adult consumer of legal drinking age in advertising and marketing their products.”

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The code also stipulates that “digital media in which there is a dialogue between a user and a Brewer may only be made where a user confirms that he or she is of legal drinking age.” (For our purposes, that “dialogue” includes purchasing beer.) The code says that age confirmation must include either:

1) disclosure of a user’s full birth date or other method of active confirmation prior to viewing an advertisement by or communicating with a Brewer; or,

2) restriction of the site to users of legal drinking age through registration.

Makes sense! Now, moving on to guidelines for smaller breweries:

Smaller brewery website guidelines

Smaller breweries fall under the Brewers Association Marketing and Advertising Code. This code is intended to “guide BA member marketing efforts,” meaning it’s not necessarily a requirement—though code compliance certainly seems like a good idea for liability reasons. The code states:

“Brewers should require disclosure of a viewer’s date of birth with a message indicating that brewers’ products are intended only for those of legal drinking age:

a. at the entry to their websites;

b. at the point of download for permanent use media with or without access to a brewer’s website;

c. with a third-party compliant digital media sites that include interactive features in brewer advertisements.”

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There we have it. While a brewery may not be legally required to ask for your birthdate before entering its website, it’s a good-faith, code-specific practice. That, or it’s a nefarious data-collection scheme. (For the record, my pal John confirmed that Revolution doesn’t have the technology to save the birthdate data.)

Either way, it’s not gonna get in the way of your sudsy pastimes.