Sunday, December 25, 2005


One of the giants of civilization passes:

Joseph L. Owades, a biochemist credited with inventing...light beer ... died Dec. 16 at his home in Sonoma, Calif. He was 86.

....Mr. Owades entered the brewing trade through postdoctoral work in fermentation science. While working in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Rheingold Breweries, then an industry leader, he developed a process to remove starch from beer. This reduced carbohydrates and calories.

"When I got into the beer business...."It was a common belief then that drinking beer made you fat," he said. "People weren't jogging, and everybody believed beer drinkers got a big, fat beer belly. Period. I couldn't do anything about the taste of beer, but I could do something about the calories."

Introduced in 1967, his product was called Gablinger's Diet Beer. As Mr. Owades later said, the Gablinger's television advertisement showing a man with the girth of a sumo wrestler shoveling spaghetti into his mouth and downing a Gablinger's did little to help the cause.

"Not only did no one want to try the beer," he said, "they couldn't even stand to look at this guy!"

....With approval from his boss, Mr. Owades said, he shared his formula with a friend at Chicago's Meister Brau brewery, which soon came out with Meister Brau Lite. He routinely joked, "Being from Chicago, they couldn't spell 'light.' "

Miller Brewing acquired the light-beer process when it bought Meister Brau in the early 1970s. The "tastes great, less filling" marketing strategy, which used football players and other tough-knuckled types, helped Miller Lite flourish.

....As a consultant since the mid-1970s, he helped craft formulas for Samuel Adams, New Amsterdam Beer, Pete's Wicked Ale and Foggy Bottom Beer. When the long-defunct Rheingold name was revived in the late 1990s, Mr. Owades was hired to re-create his recipe.

He also wrote and presented more than 40 research papers about beer.

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