I acquired only 1 bottle of Ann for the 2012 release. My girlfriend and I went up to Greensboro on a Saturday and waited in line. She got the last bottle of Ann and I struck out. We enjoyed it on her birthday a few months later. I would encourage new readers to go back and check out that review.
To say that I was unimpressed with batch 1 would be unfair. I was very impressed. It was a fantastic beer and I haven’t had it since. However, alongside the other saisons from Shaun in 2012, it was just barely in the top 5. That was the year of Civil Dis 4, Art, E. Norma, Juicy and Mimosa. A crazy good year for barrel aged saisons. It was the last time both Art, Ann and E. were released until 2014 (a 2+ year gap). Alongside those beers, I didn’t find Ann to greatly exceed the quality of those beers. They were all pretty even on the scale.
If you look at my Untappd, you’ll see that I drink a lot of Hill Farmstead. I’m in the top drinkers list for Arthur, Anna, Clara, Florence, Edith and Nordic Saison. I hope in some way that makes me a mild-authority on saisons brewed in Greensboro.
This year, I managed to get 2 bottles of Ann plus a 3rd bottle for a big Hill Farmstead tasting taking place this summer. I enjoyed Ann, 2015 fresh and I’ll age the other for a year or two in the bottle. I’ve heard a few times that Shaun releases these beers when they’re ready and this means the longer a beer spends in oak, the longer it’ll need to naturally carbonate to perfection in the bottle. What this means is the first times I had Art and CD10 this year, they were fantastic but lacked a refinement that I had come to expect from his other BA saisons. However, both of those beers I’ve enjoyed within the last month and they’ve greatly improved in mouthfeel, taste and overall balance. I was nervous to have Ann so close to release.
I was wrong.
In fact, this might unseat Art as my favorite Hill Farmstead beer ever produced. There’s nothing pungent in this beer, no sulphur, no overly acidic sour candies and no hard edges. It’s a very soft beer, lots of tiny bubbles, great mouthfeel and a great balance of flavors. It reminds me a lot of Sarrasin with honey and a touch of bitterness.
I don’t really trade any more and if I do, beers like this aren’t leaving my basement. I’ll share them but trading is stupid and difficult and a pain in the butt. However, I look at trade forums once a week on sites like BeerAdvocate and to see what people are offering to acquire Ann is a bit ludicrous. I’m not going to weigh in on its trade value. This beer is worth what it’s worth to you or your friends. I do encourage anyone drinking this beer to leave it upright for a month, keep it cold, enjoy 4-ways at maximum and let it be the start of your tasting and not the finale after you’re all drunk. Is Ann worth $250 of limited release beers? I really don’t know.
Maybe this is a good opportunity to speak on price as well. In 2012, you could buy 1-4 bottles of almost all of the limited release Hill Farmstead beers and the ceiling was $20 a bottle with most being $15. Now, the ceiling is $50 with Sarrasin @ $30 and luckily the table-saisons resting @ $10 still. Here’s one thing you can be sure of. The higher these bottles go to trades & resale market, the more they will cost to the upfront buyer. That’s my assumption, not some insider knowledge. Looking at it this way. If Ann was $50 and 2,000 people signed up and people are spending $1,000+ resale on a bottle. Guess how much Ann B3 will cost? So the more you guys fight over sub-500 bottle Hill Farmstead beers, the higher the prices will go. Shaun does have a close relationship with locals so there is no sky is the limit deal but these bi-annual barrel aged stouts and saisons will go up in price until the market levels out. Just my assumption.
Ann is a highlight for me in beers I’ve tasted. Art, the 2002 Oude Gueuze from De Cam and Double Barrel Damon were enjoyed with this alongside Arthur, Anna (May/14 batches) and Dom Perignon 2004. All of these liquids were exceptional but Ann stood out way above the rest. I can’t wait to try it again in 6 months and hopefully again one year from now with some close friends.