Princeton People: Triumph brewer Claudia Confoy
Don’t call Claudia Confoy a female brewer. Yes, she is a woman and yes, she brews beer for a living. But she would rather be singled out for her beer-making skills, even if she is one of only six female brewers in New Jersey.
“It’s odd to be picked out because of my gender. I would rather be recognized for what I do,” Confoy said, adding that she just wants to be recognized for making great beer.
Confoy, 27, is an assistant brewer at Triumph Brewing Company in the Princeton and New Hope, Pa. A native of Mercer County, she attended Villa Victoria Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in Ewing, before earning her bachelor’s degree at Montclair State University. Her parents and her school teachers taught her that gender should not determine one’s aspirations, an attitude that sticks with Confoy today.
“I played with dump trucks, but I also played with dolls. My brother played with baby dolls, but he also played with Legos,” she said.
Confoy does the same exact thing as the men she works with and hopes that as more women work in male-dominated fields, women can finally be recognized for their skills.
“I’m a brewer. That’s my job. I’m doing the exact same thing that the other guys are doing,” she said.
In her free time, Confoy enjoys reading, making her own versions of drink recipes and cooking. Although she studied film, English and creative writing in college, she graduated
knowing she wanted to go into the food industry and be creative in her job. Her studies and hobbies have influenced her job in unexpected ways. She uses her skills with words she gained as an English student to describe the taste of a beer. Years of studying the details of film production helped her learn the intricacies of brewing as a craft.
Confoy has worked at Triumph since 2013. She started working as a hostess and then as a server a few years later. A self-described anxious introvert, working with customers all day
as a server took her completely out of her comfort zone. “It was a huge jump,” she said.
When Triumph started searching for an assistant brewer in 2014, they first asked their staff members if they were interested. Excited by the combination of science, cooking and craft in the job, Confoy immediately applied. She was ready for a new challenge and wanted to work behind the scenes in the brewery.
Although she had never worked as a brewer before accepting the job, she had worked at Gravity Hill Farm, an organic farmer’s market in Titusville, and always enjoyed cooking in her free time. Her lack of experience meant a difficult first year of brewing, but she immediately fell in love with the technicality and creativity of crafting beer. She spent a lot of time observing at first, taking in the process. The physical labor involved in the job surprised her at first when one of her first tasks was to scrub the floors. Keeping the brewery clean and sanitary is an important part of the brewing process.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’ve never felt more stupid in my life,” Confoy said. “But it was absolutely worth it.”
Put simply, brewing is making beer by mixing malted barley with water and fermenting the resulting liquid, also known as wort, with yeast. Significant work and calculation goes into
that process, leaving Confoy exhausted many days. To start, the brewer chooses which type of barley to use and mashes it just the right amount before mixing it with the water in a large
container, the mash tun. The resulting liquid, or wort, is then filtered off the grain and transferred to a kettle, where it is boiled. Then the brewer adds hops, a type of cone found on
vines, to provide bitterness, flavor and aroma. After boiling for at least an hour, the wort is chilled and moved to a fermenter, where yeast is added. Finally, the finished product is filtered through tubes and pipes two floors down to Triumph’s basement, which means a lot of running up and down stairs for Confoy.
It’s difficult for Confoy to choose a favorite part of the process. “I liked the combination of the creativity, the science of it, and the physicality of it,” she said. “I just think it’s such an interesting skill and trade to know.”
Confoy’s favorite thing to do after a long day of brewing is to drink a half-pint of beer that she has helped brew. She has a little part in making every beer she tastes.
“It feels really good to have done something, to have made something,” Confoy said. “It’s a very cool, very satisfying feeling.”
Confoy uses her heightened sense of taste after years of sampling beers to make her own drink recipes and improve her cooking skills. She also appreciates being able to move around and use her hands while she works.
“As an anxious person, it’s really good to have something to do with my hands and a reason to move,” she said.
Confoy enjoys spending time with her parents in Ewing and childhood friends who live in the area, and she is grateful that she gets to do a job she loves.
“I’m so happy right now,” she said. “This is where I’m supposed to be.”
Claudia also enjoys writing about food and making and sharing food and drink (both alcoholic and non) recipes. Try one of her drink recipes:
- Collect snow and keep it in a freezer
- Mold a snowball
- Add equal parts crème de cocoa and vanilla vodka
- Add a splash of coconut milk
- Combine 2 tsp instant coffee, 2 tsp sugar, and 2 tbs water in blender or cocktail shaker.
- Blend or shake until light brown and foamy.
- Pour over ice and top with a little milk. (Claudia’s mom, Beth Ellen Jarvie, who works at the Keller Center at Princeton University, likes a variation on the recipe with no sugar and coconut milk creamer instead of milk).
As a Vassar alum (which was all women until a generation ago, and still heavily favors women and non-binary men in its population) – VC’s teams are called The Brewers, as Matthew Vassar, founder of the college, was a brewer himself! I see a cross-branding opportunity here…
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