But Jim Koch likes to say he alonr invented "Sam Adams Boston Lager"


Sad news this week
Joseph Owades, a familiar face in the world of craft brewing for many years, died of a heart attack Dec. 16 in his home in Sonoma. He was 86.
A World War II veteran with a doctorate in biochemistry, he went to work for Fleischmann's Yeast after the war and wound up working for Rheingold Brewing. (If you're old enough, you'll no doubt remember Miss Rheingold, if not the beer.)
Anyway, in his yeast and malt research at Rheingold, Joe found an enzyme that encouraged brewer's yeast to eat all or most of the fermentable solids left in the beer. "Lite" beer was born. A few years later, Miller bought the Rheingold light beer label and soon launched Miller Lite.
Joe once told me the process is patented and only Miller can use it. Most everyone else makes light beer by diluting a stronger beer with water. In later years, Joe Owades joined the craft beer revolution in a big way. He was a consultant at Anchor in San Francisco. He helped Jim Koch of Boston Brewing fine-tune his Sam Adams Boston Lager and other recipes; he did the same thing for Pete Slosberg of Pete's Wicked Ale fame and many other craft brewers.
He was the founder and director of the Center for Brewing Studies in Sonoma and he will be missed. Adieu Joe Owades.
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William Brand publishes What's On Tap, a consumer craft beer and hard cider newsletter. His column runs every other week. Write him at snipped-for-privacy@sbcglobal.net or call (510) 915-1180.
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Reply to
Garrison Hilliard

I thought it was his great grandfather's recipe, found in the back of his sock drawer or something.
EVERY article I've read about this inglorious act is different. Rheingold's product was called "Gablingers", not "Lite" and Miller never marketed Gablingers, if they did really "buy" it. Miller bought the brands of Peter Hand (IIRC they eventually changed the name of the company to Meister Brau before the sale), and the beer "Meister Brau Lite" was just one more minor brand. Supposedly, Miller came across the interesting fact that the "Lite" beer sold well in some small industrial area in the Mid-West to factory workers- who weren't watching calories but liked the fact that they could drink a lot of it (thus the "less filling" line).
I first heard of his death on NPR, which interviewed Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver. Oliver claimed that Owades worked for "Gablinger's Brewery"- but one would thing that HE would know that "Gablingers" was just a fake name- brewed by Leibmann/Rheingold of Brooklyn, using the dba name of "Forrest Brewing Co.".
In addition, he said that Owades then "gave" the recipe to a fellow brewmaster at Peter Hand (Meister Brau), which marketed it as Meister Brau Lite.
Yet, Meisterbrau Lite predates Gablingers by several years (1964 vs. 1968). Rheingold continued to sell Gablinger's into the late 70's, well after Miller Lite. (In addition, there were a number of "diet" beers in the US before Gablingers.)
The NY Times also claims that "Miller bought Gablinger's", but that never happened, as far as them owning the "brand" (perhaps they bought the recipe for Gablinger's, but why would they if they already owned Lite, which is claimed to have been the same recipe?)
I've always wondered if Owades was just one of those guys who was good at self-promotion and "exagerated" the connection between him and Miller Lite.
And, for those of you reading this and thinking "Miller Lite? Who gives a shit?", well, yeah, I gotta agree with you- I guess I've always been fascinated that someone was willing to take "credit" (blame?) for it's creation.
(One of my favorite beer "what-if's" however, is the fact that Meister Brau actually had Ballantine of Newark (dba Feiganspan) contract-brew their "Lite" for the East Coast market. If only the "Lite" boom had happened then (rather impossible without the money and advertising know-how of Philip Morris, but...), perhaps Ballantine could have held on and we'd still have a good Ballantine XXX Ale, still have a Ballantine India Pale Ale and, hell, let's wish for a continuation of Ballantine Burton Ale (let's see, we'd be drinking a "brewed in 1984, bottled in 2005" version these days, I guess.)
Reply to
jesskidden

I ain't getting into this one...(but Owades had a lot to do with this formulation).
I interviewed Owades three years ago. He told me that Gablingers did okay, but not great, and that he did indeed give the process to Peter Hand; his bosses figured that there wouldn't be much competition between a New York brewery and a Chicago brewery, as he put it (remember, this was back in the late 60s, when "regional" breweries were still relatively plentiful). Miller bought Peter Hand, and started selling Meister Brau Lite ("They did not spell very well in Chicago," Owades did indeed say, with the air of someone saying something they'd said many times...).
Not necessarily a story-killer. If the Owades process worked better than what Peter Hand was doing with Meisty Lite, they certainly might have switched to that. Owades was the kind of guy who saw a problem and wanted to fix it. Owades didn't invent light beer; he came up with the first really effective way to brew it.
Owades was first and foremost a brewing chemist. He was well-liked in the biz. I don't think he exaggerated the connection, but I don't think he missed many chances to point it out, either: as a brewing consultant, it would certainly be in his best interests.
Now THAT is a fascinating alternative!
Reply to
Lew Bryson

A somewhat scientific question. If this enzyme eats the fermentables that the yeast, what are the byproducts of this reaction? My guess would be co2 since Miller Lite is ridiculously fizzy. What is the name of this magic lite beer enzyme? According to his rating system, I think I'd have to give Miller Lite -1 stars. It's certainly well below the average beer.
Reply to
Todd

I was always under the impression that Miller purchased the Lite beer recipe from a bankrupt brewery in Chicago - just don't recall the name of it.
Dick
Reply to
Dick Adams

Joe created the process for removing starch from beer. His employer Rheingold Brewing marketed the new beer under the name Gablinger's Diet Beer. Not surprisingly it didn't sell well at all and was sold to Miller. They renamed the beer as Lite and changed the advertising and the rest is history.
Reply to
John S.

Was Owades a friend of Koch's great-great grandfather? (Koch's tale about the origin of the Boston Lager always seemed suspicious to me.)
Reply to
Kenji

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