Welcome to our Happy Hour Question & Answer series, where we ask questions to interesting people in the alcohol world.
This week’s spotlight is on SipScout by The Crafty Cask and their founder Suzanne Henricksen. The Crafty Cask launched SipScout, a rotating alcohol subscription box created to introduce craft drink enthusiasts to beer, cider, wine, spirits, and cocktails from makers across the country. When people sign up for the SipScout monthly craft alcohol subscription box, they receive a collection of craft alcohol every month. Each box features different categories and styles from craft makers from all over the country, allowing people to discover new favorites from the comfort of your home. Some months will highlight different styles of craft beers, while others will bring mixology kits or tasting flights of wine, whiskey, or cider. All kits include enough for two tasters to enjoy together.
Hops & Spirits: Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from?
Suzanne Henricksen: My entrepreneurial spirit comes from my love of travel. Travel has such a way of opening up your eyes to new and different ways of doing things across all parts of life. It’s instilled a sense of curiosity in me that tends to manifest in more ideas than I know what to do with on most days! Even when I was completely happy with my corporate career, I was one of those people always tinkering on the side and playing with new ideas to try to come up with my own spin on things and start my own business.
HS: How did you get into the spirits/alcohol industry?
SH: When I was at business school at Thunderbird Global School of Management, I set my sights on getting an internship in wine country. I ended up flying to Napa for my very first visit and asking people I was interested in working with to lunch to get to know each other and discuss opportunities. While there weren’t many internships available at the smaller craft wineries I was interested in, I was able to convince the VP at Artesa Winery at the time to create an internship role for me that summer.
I learned a ton and fell even more in love with the world of Craft Alcohol after being surrounded by the people behind the products and their passions all summer long. However, this experience also taught me that I needed to get a more corporate marketing job to put my business school learning to practice and develop the skills craft makers truly needed before focusing on the craft alcohol industry. So I took a detour and worked in marketing for a Fortune 500 CPG company for over 10 years before turning my attention back to craft alcohol in 2016.
HS: What pushed you to launch The Crafty Cask?
SH: My love of travel and always planning my itineraries through local food and drink experiences allowed me to meet so many amazing craft alcohol makers over the years. And with every delicious sip I took and wonderful story I heard, it became clear that a lot of them were really struggling to turn their passions into sustainable, and ideally thriving, businesses. With more than 10 years of corporate marketing, research, strategy, and leadership expertise under my belt in 2017, I decided to start a company that was solely focused on celebrating and supporting craft alcohol makers and The Crafty Cask was born!
HS: How did SipScout come to be?
SH: SipScout is a post-pandemic baby! Being able to help our audience actually try and buy all of the incredible craft drinks we discover through The Crafty Cask has always been a founding part of the dream…but the logistics of doing that across craft beer, wine, cider, and spirits are challenging to say the least!
During the pandemic, however, we seized an opportunity to support craft alcohol makers by hosting virtual tastings and mixology classes for corporate clients. As we started to do this, we had to figure out how to ship kits to our corporate clients’ guests and developed a lot of great partnerships to do so. We are so proud to have sold over $750k in craft alcohol (through our partner vendors) and introduced over 5,000 guests to incredible craft alcohol brands since the beginning of the pandemic, which was incredibly hard on these small businesses who historically had to rely on tasting room traffic to survive.
So, in late 2022, we took that new direct to consumer model we had created for our virtual (and now live) craft alcohol events and turned it into a monthly membership club for craft drinks explorers, SipScout!
HS: How does SipScout work?
SH: SipScout is the first and only (that we know of!) rotating craft alcohol subscription club. It is a monthly membership where you receive a tasting kit each month filled with incredible craft alcohol drinks you have likely never heard of nor can get your hands on locally. It essentially allows you to travel through your taste buds from home while supporting small craft alcohol makers all over the country (and occasionally, the world).
There is also a monthly virtual tasting party that goes along with each kit where you can dive into your box alongside myself, our Chief Tippling Officer (aka our resident booze expert as a certified sommelier, certified cider professional, WSET level 2 spirits and wine expert, and craft beer enthusiast/geek), Evan, and sometimes (like our May Charbay Distillery 40th Anniversary kit/event) even the maker themselves!
It’s an opportunity to learn all about tasting techniques, hear the behind the scenes stories of what’s in your kit, learn how to make great cocktails at home (for our mixology kits), ask questions, get recommendations, and hang out with like-minded tipplers and drinks enthusiasts to build community. Since each kit has enough in it for two servings you can even make it an easy and fun date night or friends night too.
Each kit includes:
- Anywhere between 4 and 8 craft alcohol samples depending on the type of alcohol. Each sample has enough for two tastings (or makes 2 of each cocktail).
- A printed SipScout Report walking you through your samples along with serving/pairing suggestions and the backstory behind that month’s kit.
- Digital resources to help you dive into your kit more fully (particularly if you can’t make the virtual party) – these include tasting maps and exercises, tasting technique videos, cocktail recipes, and more.
- Resources and discounts to buy more of whatever you try and love.
- At times, fun drink accessories and equipment to help you up your drinking game. These include things like wine keys, aroma wheels, Glencairn glasses, large ice cube molds, koozies, and more.
- An invitation to that month’s virtual SipScout Party tasting or mixology experience. Replay videos are available as well.
Ways to buy (join/order by the end of each month to get that next month’s kit):
- Single kit to try it out or just select the one month you’re interested in for $99
- Join as a monthly member (15% discount over single kit pricing) for $85/month or access deeper discounts by pre-paying for 3-month (20% discount) or 6-month (25% discount) recurring memberships.
- Gift options are also available for a single kit, 3-month non-recurring gift, or 6-month non-recurring gift.
HS: Why did you decide to include multiple types of booze for this?
SH: Well, first and foremost, we decided to do this because we’re The Crafty Cask and we celebrate and support all craft alcohol categories and styles! There is so much variety and amazing craft alcohol out there and we want to introduce our members to all of it over the course of their membership!
Second, a big part of SipScout’s mission is to help drinks enthusiasts explore and expand their palate from what they already know and like into categories and styles they’re either not familiar with or think they don’t like (that’s the most fun…we love to help change minds and palates!). We don’t all eat just one kind of food all the time so why should we do that with drinks?
Third, we’ve all been members of wine clubs or beer clubs or whiskey clubs before…and while they’re fun, after a few months you can find yourself overflowing with one style of alcohol. With SipScout, variety is the spice of life and each month keeps you engaged and curious as we dive into something new.
Last, and certainly not least, we include all different types of alcohol in this kit so that we can truly support as many craft makers as possible by increasing their brand awareness, driving trial, and helping people find out where to buy more (often with special member discounts).
HS: Who is SipScout meant for?
SH: SipScout is designed for true drinks explorers…people with open minds who are looking to discover new tipples and drinks brands they may love. If you’re someone who plans their travel around brewery and winery and distillery visits, this is definitely the club for you. If you’re someone who loves to learn the ins and outs of what you’re drinking and hear the stories behind the booze, this is the club for you. If you’re someone who actively wants to expand their drinks palate and enjoy each sip more deeply, this is the club for you. If you’re someone who pretty much always says yes to trying a new food or drink, this is the club for you.
This isn’t the club for cult brand seekers or people who aren’t willing to try new things or aren’t open to changing their current perceptions. If you absolutely must know what’s in each and every box before you are even interested in SipScout, you’re kind of missing the point! While we do guarantee that everything in our kits is of the highest quality (and we do share what is in them each month), we don’t guarantee that you’ll love the taste of everything in every kit…because that’s not our goal.
Occasionally finding something you don’t like and understanding why that is helps you better understand your own palate so you can find more of what you do like in the future. We’re all about the journey and the story and drinking for experience (instead of effect) at The Crafty Cask. We’re here to geek out about drinks as well as challenge your perceptions and senses while helping you discover new craft drinks and brands you’ll love along the way. If that sounds fun to you, then you’re a natural SipScout!
HS: Where does SipScout ship? And where can folks find more information?
SH: SipScout includes free shipping and ships across the United States except for the following states: AK, AL, AR, DE, HI, IA, KY, MI, MS, NH, RI, UT. However, if you’re only interested in a single kit and you live in one of these states feel free to contact us since some types of alcohol can ship to some of these states.
Find more information at https://thecraftycask.com/shop/sipscout/