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Joseph Lawrence Owades (July 9, 1919 – December 16, 2005)[1] was an American biochemist and brewer of light and industrially produced beer. He adjusted analytical techniques and quality control, developing the first light beer and the process for making it, creating many new, unique, and successful specialty beers. He is regarded as the father of light beer.[2][3][4]

Life and careerEdit

Owades was born in Manhattan, the son of Jewish parents, and raised in the Bronx. His father, Shmuel,[1] was a dressmaker. In 1939 he graduated from City College of New York (undergraduate), followed by Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (Master’s and PhD in biochemistry (1944, 1950), with a dissertation on cholesterol titled Sterol Sulphates: A Study of αCholesterylene and Other Decomposition Products. After wartime work for the US Navy, he went on to Fleischmann's Yeast, Schwarz Laboratories in Mount Vernon, New York (where he taught the Schwarz Brewing Course), and Rheingold Breweries in Brooklyn, where he became Vice President–Technical Director.

His ideas on the nature of yeast metabolism and the starches found in malt led Owades to search for an enzyme that could break the side-branching chains of starch, which could allow yeast to digest all of the starch and produce a beer with no residual carbohydrates and lower calories. In 1967 Rheingold introduced the first "light beer", Gablinger’s Diet Beer, using this enzyme.[5] It flopped, but its many successors, starting with Miller Lite became successful in the American beer marketplace.

Following his time at Rheingold, Owades went to work in Greece for the K. Fix Brewery, then moved to Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Missouri, followed by Carling Breweries in Boston. In 1975 Owades formed the Center for Brewing Studies in San Francisco,[6] where he provided consulting services to many micro- and mid-sized brewers and taught annual seminars, becoming known as "the Godfather of the Brewing Industry".[1]

Among his consulting clients were New Amsterdam Brewing in New York; Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco; Boston Beer Company, where he developed the highly successful Samuel Adams lager; New Century Brewing, for whom he created Edison light beer; the Olde Heurich Brewing Company; and Rheingold Brewing, where he re-created the original Rheingold lager.

Owades held many patents in the field of brewing and elsewhere.

Owades received the 1994 Award of Merit from the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and addressed many brewing organizations. he was among those awarded the Sesquicentennial Medal as a distinguished alumnus by NYU Polytechnic University.[7] He wrote the articles on beer and alcohol metabolism for the Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology. He was named to the Board of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where in 1999 he endowed the Joseph and Ruth Owades Chair in Chemistry.

Owades died at his home in Sonoma, California on December 16, 2005.[8][9][10]


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ Fimrite, Peter (December 20, 2005). "Joseph Owades -- brewmaster, created light beer". San Francisco Chronicle.
  3. ^ "Remembering the Inventor of Light Beer". National Public Radio. December 20, 2005.
  4. ^ Rourke, Mary (December 22, 2005). "Joseph L. Owades, 86; Created 1st Low-Calorie Beer, Became a Consultant to Microbrewers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
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  8. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (December 22, 2005). "Joseph L. Owades, Developer of Recipe for Light Beer, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  9. ^ Bernstein, Adam (December 21, 2005). "Joseph Owades Dies at 86; The Father of Light Beer". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  10. ^ "Joe Owades". London: The Daily Telegraph. December 29, 2005. Retrieved May 7, 2010.

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