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Robyn Schumacher (left) left her career as a biology teacher to become a Certified Cicerone—think highly skilled beer sommelier—then cofounder and brewer at Ballard’s Stoup Brewing. Annie Johnson (right) is a national beer judge and brewmaster at PicoBrew, a local maker of home-brew machines.

Robyn Schumacher: I’ve had the experience, and you have probably, too, where you ask for a beer and someone directs you toward the lightest thing on the menu. Which sometimes is really good. But there’s a perception that women only really like lighter beers.

Annie Johnson: Yeah, there are stereotypes. Sometimes when I go to a brewery the person there automatically thinks, “You want the raspberry wheat. You don’t want the double IPA.” 

RS: It’s uncomfortable because they will sometimes talk down to you a little bit. And you want to say, “I make beer for a living. I’m a cicerone.” But you don’t want to have to say that.

AJ: The one way that I could break in was to enter a lot of competitions and then, you know, win. And I was lucky that I did win. My whole thing was all about the beer: Can I be regarded as a really good home brewer for my beer rather than for being female or African American. 

RS: I get that. I wish more people would ask me more about what I do, not that I’m a woman doing it. But at the same time, it is inspiring. It’s sometimes difficult to be a woman in a field where there aren’t a lot of women. You have to work through layers of people’s perceptions and stereotypes before they get to what you actually know and who you are—and that’s in any profession really. It’s a challenge but it feels good when people do recognize your talents.

AJ: It’s like beer, it’s got to have that balance. 

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