Non alcoholic beer is everywhere right now. You can’t have failed to see how much shelf space it is taking over. There are many benefits but clearly the biggest one is that it doesn’t have much alcohol. But is there a low enough level for a big question i am seeing these days, “can you drink non alcoholic beer in public?”
Can you drink non alcoholic beer in public?
You can drink non alcoholic beer in public as it is not covered by open container laws due to its non alcoholic, 0.5% ABV status. You can also drink it without risk of a public intoxication charge as you need to drink over 40 non alcoholic beers to get drunk.
What stops you drinking alcohol in public in the USA?
A good place to start when thinking about drinking non alcoholic beer in public is to ask why you might not be allowed to, what are the laws that prevent you drinking alcohol or beer in public?
Open container law
The first and biggest risk in the USA is the open container laws.
An open container law restricts where people can drink alcohol in public. What constitutes a public place largely depends on your state or city’s laws, and how any court might interpret them.
Some of the places which might fall foul of open container laws, may occur when one drinks or possess an open container of alcohol while:
- On a public sidewalk
- Inside of your car when parked
- On the front steps or in the common hallway of your apartment building.
- On a school grounds
- In a mobile home
- In a residential neighborhood
- In a parking lot
Public intoxication law
Another misdemeanour law you could fall foul off when drinking alcohol or beer in public is to be intoxicated in public.
Public intoxication, being drunk in public, is a misdemeanor crime that a person is visibly drunk or even under the influence of drugs, when in a public space. These types of laws exist to prevent people from disturbing others when in public spaces and to get people out of a public space who might be a danger to themselves or others.
By definition, a public intoxication charge has to have 3 different parts, all of which must be met in order to obtain a conviction. It has to be shown that the person was…
- Was under the influence of alcohol/drugs/controlled substances;
- Caused a disturbance or harm to another person; and
- Was present in a public place.
How much alcohol is in a non alcoholic beer?
Non alcoholic beer still have beer in the title and it has a certain percentage of alcohol by volume on the can, so just how much alcohol is in it?
There are lots of different terminologies and phrases in the non alcoholic world. Ive written a full article on what all the names mean and how to navigate your way around it, you can read it here.
A non alcoholic beer has an ABV of 0.5% or less.
An alcohol free beer will have an ABV of less than 0.05%.
To get a clearer idea of just how low these figures are, you can look at some common foods and drinks that contain alcohol. Fruit juices have more alcohol by volume than non alcoholic beer and even some breads do!
To read more about the surprising alcohol in common foods, you can read more about it here.
Does non alcoholic beer come under the open container law?
The FDA inform us that a non alcoholic beer or malt beverage must have less than 0.5% alcohol by volume.
The Federal Alcohol Administration Act states that an alcoholic beverage is any liquid which contains not less than one half of one percent alcohol by volume and is intended for human consumption. That means an alcoholic beverage needs to have more than 0.5% ABV
As we have seen from the Federal laws above, an alcoholic beverage must have an ABV of over 0.5%. Therefore non alcoholic beers are as the name suggest and classed as not alcoholic and do not come under the open container law. Great news.
Can you get drunk on non alcoholic beer, will you be intoxicated in public?
In order to get drunk on non alcoholic beer you would need to drink over 40 in as little as 2 hours. The numbers for alcohol free beers are mind-blowing. You would need to drink as many as 400 alcoholic free beers to get drunk.
My full article on the numbers involved in getting drunk on non alcoholic beer is here
To drink this amount of non alcoholic beer and be classed as drunk is basically impossible. If you are just wanting to drink a few non alcoholic or alcohol free beers in the park or another public space, there should be no risk of a public intoxication charge.