I've always heard stories that in Germany, there is no drinking age. I know that in the United States, it is 21. Alcohol can cause health risks for underage children, so it would seem weird to allow everyone to consume alcohol, no matter their age.

Does Germany have any drinking age laws? If so, what are they?

  • 2
    "Alcohol can cause health risks for underage children." While this may be true, many countries other than the United States have millennia-old drinking cultures, while detailed understanding of the effects of alcohol is relatively recent. Law reflects culture, and elements of culture that old change slowly. Commented May 27, 2015 at 1:23
  • 3
    Alcohol can cause health risks for underage children, so it would seem weird to allow everyone to consume alcohol, no matter their age. – Alcohol can also cause severe damages of health and other negative effects in adults, so it would seem weird to allow anyone to consume alcohol (neglecting that banning drugs does not work very well anyway). It’s not that it suddenly turns harmless once you’re not underage anymore (of course, some of the effects are considerably more severe for children, if I am correctly informed). As Justin Lardinois said, it boils down to culture eventually.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 4:40
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    One might argue that there is no drinking age in Germany because the drinking of alcohol itself is not punishable, only the act of giving/selling alcohol to a minor. I believe other jurisdiictions also punish the consumer.
    – sleske
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 11:08
  • It also, @Wrzlprmft, boils down to it not being harmful in moderation. Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 11:33

2 Answers 2


According to German law (Jugendschutzgesetz), §9:

  • Minors 14 years of age and older may drink undistilled alcoholic beverages, such as wine and beer, when accompanied by a Custodial Person,
  • Minors 16 years of age and older may drink undistilled alcoholic beverages, such as wine and beer, without accompaniment, and
  • Adults (18 and older) may drink distilled spirits without restriction as well.

Note that this only applies in some situations:

  • The act of drinking itself is not illegal for a minor. It is only the offering or facilitating of alcohol that is illegal (and punishable).
  • This only applies "in public" (in der Öffentlichkeit). This means it definitely applies in pubs, nightclubs, on the street or in shops. However, it would not apply during a private party, such as a family party or a birthday party among friends - though it may apply during a big party such as the graduation party open to the whole school.
  • In a private context (family party, at home, among friends) there is no official drinking age. Here, the parents / legal guardians may freely decide what to allow. They could only be prosecuted under the general laws about harm to children, for example if they allow a child to suffer an alcohol intoxication.
  • There are a number of problems with this answer: 1. The English translation you linked to is outdated, stating that 16-year-olds may be given distilled spirits. 2. The law only addresses public places, such as grocery stores and pubs; these may not hand out alcoholic drinks to minors as detailed in the answer, nor allow them to drink alcohol they got from somewhere else. In a private setting, e.g. within a family, there is no restriction. 3. The minors themselves aren’t addressed, either, so they aren’t technically forbidden from drinking if they manage to get alcohol.
    – chirlu
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 1:22
  • 1
    @chirlu: Yes, you are right. I edited the answer to address this. Note that the law does not only apply to public places - JuSchG §28 (4) explicitly says most regulations apply to anyone above the age of 18.
    – sleske
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 11:06
  • @sleske §28 IV JuSchG only applies if some other paragraph is violated. And § 9 JuSchG speaks only about public places. § 28 IV, I Nr. 10, § 9 I JuSchG does not punish to give minors alcohol in private places.
    – K-HB
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 11:43
  • What is a "Custodial Person"?
    – xjcl
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 21:04
  • @xycl it mean a person who is legally responsible for the youth/child Commented May 30, 2019 at 20:35

The accepted answer is very misleading.

The first two parts of §9 of the Jugendschutzgesetz apply to pubs, shops, and other public places.

In these places, it is illegal to sell beer, wine, and similar drinks to children and to adolescents below 16. It is also illegal to allow them to consume such drinks. However, this doesn't count for adolescents accomponied by a guardian, it always applies to children. Note that a child is someone under 14, and an adolescent someone who is not a child, but under 18.

It is also illegal to sell other kinds of alcohol to any child or adolescent or allow them to consume it, even above 16, and even when accompanied by a guardian. This is mostly about hard spirits, but also about "alcopops" which are regarded especially dangerous to children because the alcohol is hidden, even if the alcohol contents is typically only about the same as in beer and much less than in wine.

(Also, vending machines selling alcohol must not be accessible by children or adolescents, that's part 3).

This doesn't say anything at all about handing alcohol to adolescents and children in private, and allowing them to drink, nor about children and adolescents finding and consuming alcohol at home, nor about buying alcohol in the presence of children.

At https://www.t-online.de/leben/familie/schulkind-und-jugendliche/id_49295364/jugendschutzgesetz-2018-alkohol-ab-wann-und-was-ist-erlaubt-.html someone makes the claim that during private parties (at someone's home when other children or adolescents are invited) parents would be responsible to obey the same laws - whether this just someone's opinion or the law is impossible to say.

And that is what Google will show you: I cannot find one article that states whether allowing children or adolescents to drink in their home in private is either legal or illegal. There are many articles that claim it is bad, and parents shouldn't do it, many that refer to §9 which doesn't say anything about private alcohol consumption, but not one making an explicit statement either way. It would be reasonable to assume that harming your children is illegal, but if there is no proven harm, it seems to be legal.

As to the question: Alcohol consumption can cause damage to anyone, any age, but doesn't necessarily cause damage. Causing damage to children or adolescents is obviously illegal, (just like causing damage to adults), so giving alcohol to them in amounts that does cause damage is illegal. The specific laws that I could find have been linked to, but I couldn't find anything about alcohol in a private setting.

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