…well; I’ve just gone and read the relevant legislation, which basically means the Licensing Act 2003 (and wow, is that a heavy document), and small parts of the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979 (to ensure that alcohol-free beer is not defined as “beer”). As far as I can see, there’s no legislation that requires or demands that any retailer perform age checks when selling non-alcoholic beer. If anybody’s interested, the relevant sections of the Licensing Act 2003 are section 146, which defines what “sale of alcohol to children” means, section 191, which defines what “alcohol” means in this context, and section 192, which defines “sale by retail” (i.e. off-license).
The definition in section 191 actually makes a very specific exception for “alcohol which is of a strength not exceeding 0.5% at the time of the sale or supply in question,” which is, of course, the limit at which an otherwise alcoholic beverage can be called “alcohol-free”, and is conveniently the limit of the guarantee put on the product by many manufacturers, including Beck’s Blue.
I’m no lawyer, but it would appear that the popular interpretation that MitH puts forward has no grounding in actual law. And without the protection of the law, a retailer whose premises were accessible to children anyway (e.g. a supermarket) could theoretically be commiting an act of illicit age discrimination if they routinely refused to sell non-alcoholic drinks to minors… although we in the UK don’t have any specific legislation about age discrimination in this way (only gender and race, in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976, respectively), it’s still covered under European legislation, I’d bet. Fascinating.
Fascinating, but pointless. Why do I make myself suffer this way?