- Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
- Julian Hackney of Young at Heart Ginger Beer
The sunshine and ceremony of opening day drew a pre-pandemic-size crowd to the Burlington Farmers Market on Saturday, May 7. The market's Pine Street home was full of returning vendors — not to mention Maple Wind Farm's grilled hot dogs, offered again after a three-year hiatus.
My market companion and I managed to snag the Richmond farm's last two dogs of the day and ate them on the go. As we wandered, I was struck by all of the market's new vendors — roughly 40 this year, according to market director Hannah Stearns. Some will fill in occasionally, and others will be in attendance every week.
I bought a bottle of Fletcher-based Kalché Wine Cooperative's Touch of Noir rosé, which cofounder Justine Belle Lambright advised me to "give a hard chill and drink outside." I was too late for bomboloni from Trenchers Farmhouse, which went as quickly in Burlington as they do at the Capital City Farmers Market in Montpelier.
Another busy new stand was Young at Heart Ginger Beer, where we joined the line for a cup of Julian Hackney's nonalcoholic brew.
Known to music fans for the band he started with his two brothers, Rough Francis, Hackney began making ginger beer almost 12 years ago while living "a pretty hermetic lifestyle" off the grid in Lincoln, he said. He came across a recipe for naturally fermented ginger beer; made a starter culture from ginger, water and sugar; and was "immediately hooked." He made occasional batches over the years, but he mostly kept his discovery to himself until the pandemic.
"I started refining the recipe and got it really dialed in," Hackney said, "and then it felt selfish not to share it with people." He started selling bottles to friends and family last fall.
Hackney has worked at Burlington's City Market, Onion River Co-op on and off for the past decade. As he interacted with local business owners dropping off their products, he said, "I realized they're just people, just like me. That gave me the confidence to go further." He's now focused on Young at Heart — and playing music with Rough Francis — full time.
Community support for his business has been huge, Hackney said. Kyle Doda of 1000 Stone Farm encouraged him to bring Young at Heart to the farmers market; Ren Weiner of Miss Weinerz gave advice and let him borrow tables; and Jenny and Dave Rooke of Rookie's Root Beer supported him and helped shape his business model.
"Dave was the first person I called when I was done with the market," Hackney said.
Rookie's was a Burlington Farmers Market staple for 16 seasons, but the Rookes have passed the torch to Hackney. They're busy adding new biz Whoa Nellie! Kettle Corn to their root beer and lemon mapleade draft offerings at restaurants and bars around the state.
"Dave told me the root beer mafia would come find me if I ever take away any of his accounts, though," Hackney said with a laugh.
The ginger beer that Young at Heart sells at the market is slightly different from Hackney's fermentation experiments: It's on draft ($5 per cup) and "basically a bubbly ginger tea," he said, brewed with honey, lemon juice, pineapple juice and sugar, and served on ice. The original and a rotating flavor such as passion fruit will be available each week.
"I almost don't like to call it a soda," Hackney said. "It's a magical tonic that is healing and soothing."
Whatever you call it, Young at Heart strikes a perfect balance of sweetness and spice — not too much for kids to enjoy, Hackney said, but enough for the ginger to make its presence known. It's refreshing, complex and goes perfectly with a hot dog.