It’s a frequent pop-up familiar to anyone who regularly reads about booze online: Are you over 21? This cyber-bouncer is called an age-gate, and it’s a protection used by beverage alcohol companies. Virtual identification methods range from a simple click of a button for “yes,” to typing out your date of birth, to the dreaded drop-down menus with centuries of suggested birth years.
Although these protective measures are repetitive and tiresome (precious seconds lost!), some companies have clever approaches. Enter an underage birthday on the SweetWater Brewing website, for example, and I’ll send you to the Canadian cartoon Caillou. “We Googled ‘kids toys’ and Caillou came up. Made us chuckle, so maybe it’ll amuse someone else, too,” says SweetWater director of communications Tucker Berta Sarkisian. “I wish I had a sexy answer for you or at least something that makes us sound intelligent and thoughtful.”
Others troll underage users by redirecting them to a variety of age-appropriate sites. Branford, Conn.’s Stony Creek Brewery redirects to a Google search for puppies and Yards Brewingforwards to Mattel (at press time, the homepage features a Hot Wheels track). Sun King Brewery of Indianapolis brings up search results for lunch boxes, and Uinta Brewing sends users to a website devoted to Disney princesses.
When asked about its redirect, Uinta Brewing’s newly hired director of marketing, Jeremy Wornell, was unenthused. “To be clear, that isn’t the direction I would personally take today, and will be changing it to reflect something much more relevant to our brand such as our partnership with the American Hiking Society,” Wornell writes VinePair in an email.
Some breweries are more intentional. Boulevard Brewing offers the beneficial reroute to a tourism website dedicated to underage-friendly activities in Kansas City, Mo., where the brewery is based. Others simply figure it’s a nice way to give bad news.
“When we made the decision, it was really just because we needed a place for anyone who was clicking ‘no’ on the 21-plus query,” Brian Skarin, marketing manager for Karl Strauss Brewing, says. Karl Strauss’s website redirects to Kool-Aid’s website. “We just thought it was a fun way to not just send people straight to Google,” Skarin says.