This year, weather in Portland, Oregon, did a 180-degree switch overnight. Sunny, smoky skies gave way to the chilly rain that covers the city for a majority of the year. Even though Mother Nature thinks otherwise, Portland makers are doing whatever they can to hold onto that last bit of summer just a bit longer.
Take Pono Brewing Company co-founder Erick Russ and local event producer Natalia Toral, for example. They saw the framework for an event to celebrate a beloved summer beverage, the shandy, and organized a community celebration around the beverage to soak in the last of the season’s splendor. Their event, Shandytown PDX, puts a quintessentially Portland twist on a beverage that originated in Britain in the 1700-1800s.
The drink, initially called “Rich Man’s Shandy Gaff,” was half Champagne, half ale. More modest patrons would mix ginger beer or lemonade instead; the “gaff” theoretically came from the half ginger beer addition (ginger + half = gaff.)
Eventually shortened to just “shandy,” the libation became wildly popular, both for flavor and low alcohol content. When Americans eventually caught, there were no shortage of stateside brands putting out their own versions of the typically sweet drink. Nowadays, the beer can be mixed with anything from soft drinks to juice, and many can be found in cans and glasses.
In a city that loves to drink, the original idea for Shandytown was drummed up at — you guessed it— a bar.
“I was meeting with [Ataula bartender] Angel Teta, working on getting one of our beers on her menu,” Russ says, “and she instantly made a shandy with our Pineapple Kolsch. It became the No. 1 drink on her menu.”
A few weeks later, Russ was in another cocktail haven: Portland’s Raven & Rose. One bartender at each of the restaurant’s two bars also made shandies, then tested both on customers to see which one was more popular. After another shandy talk at a third restaurant, the idea had been planted for the celebration.
In true Rose City fashion, Shandytown PDX quickly blossomed from a few bartenders offering their own renditions of shandies to a full-blown competition between five of the city’s most lauded drinking establishments. Chefs around town also got wind of the event and wanted to be a part of the celebration. As a result, Shandytown PDX will also showcase five food collaborations, from Filipino cuisine to ice cream. Attendees will get access to the entire shandy and nosh lineup.
Above all, Russ is about collaboration. He hopes to bring together people from the thriving beer and spirits worlds, which sometimes exist in their own circles.
“My hope is that we can work together to promote both communities,” he says.
Shandytown PDX takes place Monday, September 25. You can purchase your tickets here. The event benefits Growing Gardens, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps low-income families grow and harvest their own fresh produce.
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