Cups of beer lined up in Pennsylvania, July 10, 2013 (Photo: Jason Bridge/AP)
If you're a fan of microbreweries, here's a story about about an extra-tiny one: a 61-year-old man in Texas has a medical condition that causes him to brew beer in his belly.
The man went to a hospital emergency room complaining of dizziness, and a Breathalyzer test found that his blood alcohol contentration was 0.37 per cent: that's five times the legal driving limit in Texas, NPR reports.
Although the case seemed pretty straightforward — the staff initially thought he'd had too much to drink — the guy denied that he'd touched any alcohol that day. The medical staff searched his belongings for booze and isolated him in a room for 24 hours, checking his blood alcohol levels every couple of hours. During his stay, he ate a lot of carbohydrate-heavy foods.
At one point, although he'd had no access to drinks, his blood alcohol level rose by 0.12. The doctors eventually figured out what was causing the rise: the man had too much brewer's yeast in his gut, and it had turned his intestinal tract into a small-scale brewery. Every time he put sugars into his system (from breads, pastas or even a pop) his body would convert it into ethanol and he would get drunk.
The finding was a relief to his wife, who was getting concerned about her husband's apparent drinking habits.
"He would get drunk out of the blue — on a Sunday morning after being at church, or really, just anytime," said Barabara Cordell, dean of nursing at Panola College in Carthage, Texas. "His wife was so dismayed about it that she even bought a Breathalyzer."
Cordell and Dr. Justin McCarthy, a gastroenterologist based in Lubbock, Texas, wrote about the condition, dubbing it "auto-brewery syndrome." For most of us, brewer's yeast (which is present in many common foods and drinks, including bread, and of course beer) passes right through our system. But in rare cases like this one, it can stay in the gut and set up shop as a brewery.
You can read the full report from Cordell and McCarthy at Scientific Research Open Access.