Until now anything containing less than 10% alcohol in Russia has been considered a foodstuff.
The move, signed into law on Wednesday, will allow ministers to control the sale of beer in the same way that spirits are controlled. Russian alcohol consumption is already twice the critical level set by the World Health Organization.
Although vodka has long been the traditional tipple in Russia, beer has soared in popularity, being marketed as a healthier alternative to spirits. Over the past decade, beer sales in Russia have risen more than 40% while vodka sales have fallen by nearly 30%.
Correspondents say it is common to see people swigging beer in the street and in parks as if they are drinking soft drinks.