Non-Alcoholic Beer Regulation 101


As part of the general move to better-for-you beverages, non-alcoholic (NA) options have been and will likely continue to be on the rise. However, how NA is treated, or not treated, as “beer” has significant impact on its potential route to market. The below summarizes the overall treatment of NA beer under US federal law, as well as examples of restrictions on direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipments imposed by certain states.

FEDERAL TREATMENT OF NA BEER

STATE REGULATION OF DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER SHIPMENT OF NA BEER

NA beer presents opportunities for brands looking to distribute their products directly to consumers in most states without the stringent regulations that apply to distributing beer.

State regulation of direct-to-consumer NA beer varies. A vast majority of states have statutory definitions of “beer” similar to the IRC’s definition, which include a minimum threshold of 0.5% ABV. Some states, such as Arizona, Georgia, Idaho and Tennessee, have broad definitions of “beer” or “malt beverage” that are not tied to a specific alcohol content (similar to the FAA Act). Meanwhile, other states like Pennsylvania and Kansas have specific legislation which directly regulates NA malt beverages.

The most permissive state regulations in the majority of states allow both in- and out-of-state suppliers to make unlimited shipments of NA beer for consumers’ personal use. However, as noted above, a minority of states which have broad definitions of “beer” or “malt beverage” potentially restrict the ability to sell NA beer directly to consumers. For example:


© 2024 McDermott Will & Emery
National Law Review, Volumess X, Number 179