Are you 21 or older? Of course, you are. You clicked YES, so we believe you. Hahahahahahaha. Sure, we do.

We all see AGE GATES on beer and alcohol-related websites. Sometimes we see it on other sites, too, but more often than not, it’s beer sites. Frequently, when visiting a new website, we’re asked upon entry if we’re old enough to enter. Sometimes it’s just a question and a button to click “yes” or “no,” sometimes you’re asked for the year you were born, and sometimes you are asked for your exact birthday.

An age verification system, also known as an age gate, is a technical protection measure used to restrict access to digital content from those that are not appropriately-aged. These systems are used primarily to restrict access to content classified (either voluntarily or by local laws) as being inappropriate for users under a specific age, such as alcohol and tobacco advertising, internet pornography or other forms of adult-oriented content, video games with objectionable content, or to remain in compliance with online privacy laws that regulate the collection of personal information from minors (such as COPPA in the United States).

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_verification_system

Age Gates on Alcohol Sites Aren’t Required and May Cause More Harm Than Good, Experts Say.

According to FoodAndWine.com Age Gates aren’t required, partly because they are unenforceable. After all, you can say you’re a hundred years old, and who would know, or care for that matter.

To us, as designers, this is pure silliness. There is nothing on a craft brewer’s website that they can’t find anywhere else online – places without age gates, like Wikipedia and Disney. Speaking of which, we found a great article on TheDailyMeal.com titled 9 Times Disney Characters Got Drunk, including; once when Dumbo thought that beer was water (sure, we buy that one :-), Mickey Mouse lights up a cigar and downs a beer at a bar, Pluto goes dog wild with XX beer, Smee the pirate (of course), Gaaston after being rejected by Belle, Donald Duck drank something more powerful than beer, Uncle Waldo drunk as a skunk, Horace and Jasper from 101 Dalmatians, and the friends and family of Sleeping Beauty herself.

And then there’s Homer “DOUGH… the stuff…that buys me beer” Simpson, Bender from Futurama, Barney “In case you get hungry, there’s an open beer in the fridge” Gumble from The Simpsons, Peter Griffein from Family Guy, Randy Marsh from South Park, and Sterling Archer. All great role models — ha!

By comparison, visiting a typical craft brewer’s website will often reveal information like business address, business hours, a menu of their fine craft beers and possibly a food menu as well, along with the brewer’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

I’m genuinely hoping that it’s unlikely that anyone would ever see a picture of a beer or learn anything about brewing that would send them down a path of despair. If that’s you, stop reading now and click here to exit for your safety.

Are you still with us? We hope so because our job is to make Nevada Beer Quest accessible. We endeavor to share the best that craft brewing has to offer; news, events, etiquette, knowledge, recipes, and more. Information is readily available already online, like how to pour a beer, or given news on an event. In reality, there is considerably far more dangerous imagery on the internet than a picture of beer, barley, or hops (or so we’re told anyway).

In 2008, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) issued a report titled “Self-Regulation in the Alcohol Industry” which offers various suggestions. Here’s an exerpt…

In the case of company-sponsored sites, the Commission previously recommended that companies limit access to those users stating that they are over 21, for example, by entering a birth date indicating an age of 21 or older to gain admission. It also recommended that sites featuring content likely to have strong appeal to minors, or that permit alcohol purchases online, consider use of age-verification technologies, i.e., systems that instantly compare the consumer’s personal information to electronic databases of government and commercial information, to verify that the identified consumer is 21 or older.

Given that age gates are essentually voluntary, what is the point of even using them? Ask yourself what purpose they serve. In the internet world, it takes a lot to get a visitor to your website. Then, when someone does visit your site, many, when confronted with an age gate (or any barrier), will turn away. Sure, sometimes age gates are fun (like never), but the rest of the time, they’re more annoying than anything. The rule of thumb when designing your site is to keep it simple, simple, simple. That means if you must use an age gate, then make it the easiest one you can. A simple “Are You 21 or Older?” with a “YES” or “NO” reply. The more information you require for someone to visit your site, the less likely they are to continue.

The exception would be if your company is actually selling alcohol online, then age verification would make sense (like showing your ID), but age verification on a website that only talks about alcohol is a bit confusing, especially since that information is available all over the internet anyway.

From what we could find, there is no law or regulation per se that requires age verification. Alcohol companies willingly put those age verification pages on their webpages. The reason they’re there is because some people believe it will help keep youths away from these sites, and those people have convinced many in the alcohol industry that this is an effective tool. (source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/liquor-website-age-verification_n_59c3b549e4b06f93538cdd18)

And here’s food for thought… if you have an age gate and someone enters false information, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), persons under the legal drinking age (LDA) face criminal charges when they lie about their age, so you could be putting a young person at serious risk. So, legally, a college student or military person could not even learn about your product from you, the source of the most accurate information about your product.

From a website design practical side, search engines, which are run by algorithms and bots, are often blocked from seeing and indexing the site. And as we like to say, if Google can’t find you, nobody finds you.

Thankfully, there is no age limit on knowledge and a willingness to learn. If you want to know something, there are plenty of websites with robust content where you’ll get the information. You don’t have to visit beer websites with age gates to learn about beer and brewing to be beer smart. And in the end, wouldn’t it be best to get the story and facts about your products from the source?

As a disclaimer, we’re not attorneys, so we recommend talking to yours if you have any doubts about whether your site needs an age gate.

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