The effectiveness of keg registration (or keg tagging) in reducing underage drinking problems is unclear. That’s because virtually no research on the subject is done. Even publications that suggest findings often don’t. An example is “Measuring public policy. The case of beer keg registration laws.”1
I. Keg Registration
II. Keg Registration Laws
We need to know the specific effectiveness of keg registration laws.
I. Keg Registration
Beer keg tagging laws require retailers to place ID number on kegs over a certain capacity. They also typically require retailers to maintain records of the purchasers along with the keg numbers.
The goal of such laws is simple. Illegal activities sometimes involve drinking from kegs. This typically involves drinkers under the age of 21. When that occurs, law enforcement can identify the purchaser. That person is generally of legal age.
Beer kegs also promote excessive consumption. People drinking from cans or bottles are likely to consume less. That’s because they don’t want to let the remaining beer “go to waste.” The same thing often happens when people in a restaurant drink wine. When buying by the glass they’re often less likely to drink as much as if they buy a bottle. That’s because they don’t want to let remaining wine go to waste. For this reason, some states no longer make it illegal to take home an unfinished bottle.
II. Keg Laws
No Keg Laws
These states have no keg registration.
People tend to see beer as as having less alcohol than wine or liquor (distilled spirits). However, standard drinks of beer, wine, and spirits all have the same amount of pure alcohol. Specifically, it’s six-tenth of an ounce. When it comes to alcohol, they’re all the same.
Note that Wickipedia incorrectly lists Kentucky, New York, and Ohio as having keg tagging laws. They do not. Of course, Wikipedia is neither a scholarly nor a reliable site.
In addition, Utah has no keg tagging. That’s because the state prohibits kegs. Specifically, it prohibits the sale of beer in containers holding more than two liters. There are no such sales. That’s because the state government has a monopoly over all alcohol sales.
Definitions of a Keg
What’ a keg? Definitions vary widely. They range from anything over two gallons to 16 gallons. Most states define a keg as container with from four to six gallons. However, South Carolina is unique. It defines a keg as 5.16 or more gallons. Ironically, Rhode Island requires keg registration. Yet nowhere does it define a keg. That fact should delight defense lawyers.
Seventeen states have penalties for possessing an unregistered or unlabeled keg. The specific penalties vary greatly. The most severe is Oregon, with a maximum fine of $6,250 and a maximum imprisonment of one year. Georgia and Washington state also permit imprisonment of up to one year. However, maximum fines across the country are usually $500 or $1,000.
Yet some states and Washington, DC have no such penalties. These are the states.
These four states require a keg deposit.
Of course, retailers regularly require a deposit to ensure return of the empty kegs.
III. Research on Keg Registration
Beck analyzed the effectiveness of keg registration laws in reducing binge drinking among underage drinkers. She concluded that “the fact that a state has a keg registration law in place has no effect on the number of binge drinking days in a given month.”
Ringwalt and Paschall
Ringwalt and Paschall examined the effectiveness of keg registration laws. To do so they looked at three outcomes. They were the 30 day prevalence of three adolescent behaviors.
- Heavy episodic or binge drinking.
- Driving after drinking.
- Riding with a driver who had been drinking.
They found that only riding with a driver who had been drinking was associated with keg registration laws.
Yoruk and Xu
Yoruk and Xu studied the effect of keg tagging laws on adolescent alcohol consumption. They also analyzed their effects on alcohol-related traffic deaths among those under age 21. There was a 2.3 percentage point lower rate of heavy episodic drinking in states with keg laws. However, there was no impact of such laws on youthful alcohol-related traffic deaths.
Yoon and colleagues
Yoon and colleagues examined the effects of two state alcohol policies on underage drinking. Specifically, required server training and keg registration. At the same time, they controlled for both beer excise tax and student characteristics.
Those in states with required server training were less likely to be episodic heavy drinkers. That’s in comparison with students residing in states without that policy. Some students were in states with both policies. That is, required server training and keg registration laws. However, there was no further reduction in that behavior. Therefore, keg registration laws were ineffective.
In summary, little research has been done on the effectiveness of keg registration laws. Furthermore, the findings are mixed. As a result, any impanct of keg registration laws is unclear.
IV. Resources: Effectiveness of Keg Registration
1 Wagenaar, A. et al. Measuring public policy. The case of beer keg registration laws. Eval Prog Plan, 2005, 28(4), 359–367.
2 Beck, Z. Effectiveness of Beer Keg Registration Law on Decreasing Underage Binge Drinking. Economics. 3, 2016.
3 Ringwalt, C., & Paschall, M. The utility of keg registration laws. A cross-sectional study. J Adol Health, 2011, 48(1), 106–108.
4 Yoon, Y. et al. Keg registration, server training, beer excise tax and underage drinking. Poster, annual meeting of Am Pub Health Assn, 2003.
5 Yoruk, B. and Xu, L. Keg registration laws, alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related traffic fatalities among adolescents. J Stud Alco Drugs, 2021, 82(1), 66-75.
This website takes no position on the effectiveness of keg registration laws. So, as always, readers need to decide for themselves.