You may have seen Miller refer to its celebrated Miller Lite brand as “the original light beer.” You may have even seen the brewing giant claim in modern television commercials that Miller invented light beer. The thing is, it didn’t.
The true father of light beer was Dr. Joseph L. Owades, a biochemist and Rheingold Brewing Company employee who, in 1967, formulated a beer with reduced carbs and calories by removing starch. His creation was dubbed Gablinger’s Diet Beer, and it flopped.
After the failure of Gablinger’s, Owades asked his boss at Rheingold if he could share the beer recipe with a friend at Chicago-based Meister Brau brewery. Meister Brau relaunched the beer as Meister Brau Lite, targeting diet-conscious consumers. After Mesiter Brau went bankrupt in 1972, Miller swooped in for the sale of three of Meister Brau’s brands, including Meister Brau Lite.
Miller reformulated and rebranded the beer as Miller Lite. With the help of New York ad agency McCann Erickson, which provided a dash of market research and a hefty helping of good advertising advice, Miller started producing the now-legendary television commercials that targeted blue-collar bar flies. The ads featured retired athletes like New York Jets 1969 Super Bowl star, Matt Snell, who touted the beer for its full flavor and feather-like fullness factor.
It was Snell, during a three-day-long television commercial shoot at a rented-out bar in New York, who came up with the slogan, “Everything you want in a beer. And Less.”
After a few rounds of Miller Lite field tests around the country, Miller Lite went national in January 1975. In 2013, it returned to its vintage image, allegedly as part of a marketing campaign for “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (the movie prominently featured the beer).
Some say the throwback Miller Lite label makes the beer taste better. We’ll leave that up to you.