Fermly is proud to be a female owned and operated small business. Meet Frances Wang, the yin to Danny Wang’s yang around here who works as our Lead Scientist. She’s a TTB-certified chemist and craft beer writer, notably for the Five Star Chemicals blog.
Frances is a professional brewing chemist who in December of 2020 passed her TTB recertification. This exam is no joke— and Frances continues to take it seriously.
Frances' journey towards the beer industry began at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY where she chose to pursue a degree in English and Biology. When not studying, working, or in the lab, she gradually developed an interest in microbrews at the local brewery, Empire Brewing, and her favorite brew at a bar was Magic Hat Brewing Company Circus Boy Hefeweizen.
Frances' successful career in the medical industry lead her to Denver, CO. In seeking her next career, she somehow fell into the beer industry with help from Danny— and the rest becomes Fermly history!
In pursuit of making Fermly a well-respected independent laboratory in the craft beer industry , Frances attained her first TTB certification as a brewing chemist in 2018.
So how does one become a brewing chemist?
The Trade and Tax Bureau, grand arbiters of many things to do with the alcohol industry, has a specific list of requirements one must pass in order to qualify for the exam. Among these is a bachelor's degree in life science (biology, fermentation, etc.) with at least 30 hours of chemistry. Following proving educational requirements have been met, the TTB will send two samples of beers that must be tested using specific equipment. The results are then sent in and reviewed for accuracy and discrepancies, where only a certain amount of deviation is allowable. Only after passing this test can a person become a brewing chemist.
Here is the fascinating bit about this whole rigorous process: the TTB only certifies people, not facilities. All of these requirements— from education, application, and through testing—are based off of an individual. One may think that it should only matter whether or not the equipment is correct and calibrated, but it matters that the individual know how to take care of their lab to maintain desired standards. Possibly most importantly, this government organization wants to trust that the person they are certifying understands and respects what the numbers mean and represent. Checking pH or doing an extraction is one thing, but understanding the science behind it, and why it matters, is of paramount importance for being a brewing chemist.
Combining art + science
Though Frances chose to pursue her passion for biology as her primary professional track, her interest in literary arts never fully abated. To-date, she marries her dynamic interests by giving back to the beer community not just as a scientist, but as a wordsmith too.
Among many other writing projects, Frances is also a beer wordsmith who regularly helps translate nitty gritty process details into tangible advice for brewers on the Five Star Chemicals & Supply, Inc. blog. “Fraances brings fresh technical industry perspective to our blog through her witty articles and industry insight,” says Five Star Chemicals Marketing Manager Erin Hamrick. “She is able to explain complicated and advanced techniques in a way all customers are able to understand and comprehend. Her tone is professional and yet still creative.”
Here is Frances' brewing science advice on the Five Star Chemicals blog. Stay tuned for more!
Find Frances on Instagram at @fermentablesugar, and don’t miss the 31 Days of Beer challenge that she and Danny did to close out 2020!
Photos taken at Bierstadt Lagerhaus.