Pub landlord discovers he’s intolerant to beer

11 April 2013

SquareCompassAlastair Scott, 49, is a beer sommelier and food journalist from Banbury. He is also the landlord of the Square and Compass pub in North Righton near Harrogate.

For months Alastair had been suffering from terrible cold-like symptoms and ocasional stomach pains, but did not know what the cause was. It was affecting his home and work life, and was making him feel miserable. This was especially bad as he had just launched a new business opening a local pub, and so he felt exhausted, ill and fluey all the time, and was struggling to cope with everything.

Alastair said:

I’d had cold-like symptoms for a quite a while, like a cough and issues with my nose but I really didn’t think too much of it. The coughing was definitely the worst of my symptoms, it got so bad that it was keeping my family up at night and it made my throat very sore- but I just learn to live with it.

When my children were younger I had them tested for intolerances and it revealed that my daughter, 19, was intolerant to wheat and my son was intolerant to dairy products. I never thought that the symptoms that I was experiencing could have been caused by food intolerance. It was just one of those things, I got the children tested for intolerances but neglected to do it for myself.

Alastair-ScottIt had been going on for such a long time, we suspected that it was more than just a virus. When my symptoms worsened, my partner suggested that I should check that it wasn’t the food and drink I was consuming that was causing my health problems.

Through my work, I spend most of my waking life in pubs- as a beer sommelier, judging the establishments and their menus and I’m also a food journalist, and so I was curious to know if it was a food that was causing me to be ill.

I researched food intolerance on-line and discovered a company who do a home blood testing kit that looks for intolerances to over 100 foods, which seemed a simple way of doing the test rather than seeing my GP.

I took the first test, which came back with a positive result saying I was severely intolerant to at least a couple of food ingredients. I decided to upgrade the test to the full test and waited for my results …

When the results came back that I was intolerant to yeast, and I couldn’t quite believe it!

Yeast is such a big ingredient in so many of the foods and drink that I consume. Bread, beer, wine – all kinds of alcohol in fact, which is dreadful considering I work in a pub for a living! Even when I’m not actually drinking socially, my work as a sommelier means that I have to attend tastings all the time. I was very worried and didn’t know how I’d be able to cope.

As soon as I received the test results, I started to do a lot of research into yeast and intolerances. I found that as well as the obvious alcohol and bread, a lot of foods are fermented with the aid of yeast. This includes things like vinegar and soy sauce which are ingredients in many recipes and sauces.


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As I began to cut yeast out of my diet, I was surprised at how easy I found it. I began adopting a ‘Sip, not sup’ approach to sampling drinks and foods that contained yeast. As my symptoms were not severe, I found this was the best way to limit my yeast consumption without affecting my job too much. It is impossible to completely cut yeast out of your diet but if I cut it down by 90%, it’s a huge step forward.

It has also affected the way we eat at home. When I cook the family meals, I need to plan our meals quite carefully so that they don’t include yeast, wheat or dairy. Thankfully, there are some great alternatives out there, for example when dressing a salad I will use a lemon based dressing instead of a vinegar base. Curries are also a big hit in our house as they tick all the boxes!

In time I do hope that I will gradually be able to reintroduce yeast back into my diet. I am now able to control the foods and drinks that I consume by knowing what to avoid or limit and I have seen a huge improvement to my health.

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