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New Rules to Allow Beer Sales to Kids?

Yes. Maybe. Well, it’s not all that simple.

 “Beer is just liquid bread,” Robert Weinberg, the well-known American beer consultant, used to say. And it seems the Estonian Agriculture Ministry wishes to adopt something close to that idea in changing the definition of alcoholic beverages. Should the ministry have its way, the level of alcohol making a beverage “alcoholic” would be 1.2 % (the current level is legislated at 0.5 %). Therefore, “weak beer,” says the Estonian Cities Association director Jüri Võigemast, would be legally available to children: “...a minor can buy and consume it. It can be sold in kiosks. Is that a suitable alcohol policy?” Võigemast demands.

The authors of the bill justify the change with the fact that labs are not always able to determine how strong a 0.5 %-strength beer actually is. Katrin Karolin with the Agriculture Ministry said the amendments to the law are meant to unify the minimum ethanol content level definition of alcoholic beverages. Currently the 1.2% level is in force for all other alcoholic beverages except beer, which has a 0.5% level. (Karolin said that in Finland, for example, the level is 2.8%.) European Commission directives require that real ethanol content be listed on the label in case of beverages that contain more than 1.2% ethanol. Due to this, Estonia cannot demand that the alcohol content be listed on beer produced in other member states, if the beers are weaker than 1.2 %. “We cannot rule out that foreign alcohol-free beer on sale at our market is not stronger than 0.5 % already,” Karolin said.