A Cache of Porter – Maybe Still?
George Thomas Landmann (1780-1854) was an English military engineer, a graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, southeast London. Although the name sounds possibly of German origin, he had no apparent connections to Germany.
His father was a professor of artillery at the Arsenal. Landmann had one of those geographically dispersed careers that was possible long before airlines or even steamship transport. He was in Canada, Portsmouth, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Portugal, and Ireland, among other places.
He retired with the rank of Colonel in the Royal Corps of Engineers, and at the end of his life wrote two volumes of Recollections.
The books enjoyed good popularity in their day due to his close observations of campaigns and personalities including Wellington. Landmann is still referenced, Jennine Hurl-Eamon and Lynn MacKay include him in their new work, Women, Families and the British Army, 1700–1880.
Our interest in the Colonel concerns beer. He devotes a few pages (pp. 172-175) to an anecdote that reveals not just a strong liking for the drink but an impish sense of humour. On his treks for the Army in Gibraltar he was often required to undergo lengthy periods without anything to drink, even water.
He resolved to create “depots” of porter on his surveys. He stashed away a few bottles of porter in strategic locations, designed that is for access no matter where he was on his rambles. He chose pockets well-shielded from the sun and as naturally cooled as possible, to permit of a pour of cool “creaming” porter.
This side of the foaming porter equation was for bottled beer of course. A good carbonation resulted from continued fermentation in the bottle. Available evidence suggests little or no partly-fermented wort (which I’ve been speaking about recently) was added to this class of porter, as time and temperature alone provided the necessary high condition.
That Landmann was a bit of a madcap is shown by his story that when in the Gibraltar wilds with a colleague, he would tempt the comrade with an apparently hopeless prospect: wouldn’t it be great if we could enjoy a cool glass of porter now? The interlocutor could only look at him longingly.
Then Landmann mills about ostensibly on engineers’ business, retrieves a bottle when the comrade is out of sight, and rejoins him, proffering a glass of foaming porter! He describes well the astonishment of the grateful brother-in-arms.*
Here is the best part: of the four caches he created, one was never broached, it is still there, he says, although artfully hidden.
He wrote in 1854. It is now 2020. Is the porter still there? He placed it somewhere off the storied Mediterranean Steps.
I’ll look for you if I can visit Gibraltar next year. I’m thinking, a week or so in Morocco and the Rock, then a week in London for the Great British Beer Festival, 2021. It would make a statement to amble in with a bottle of 1850s porter, but no promises!
Note re image: this 1961 map was sourced from the Wikipedia entry linked in the text. Believed in public domain. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.
*The story has the ring of absurdist British humour still evident today. The Monty Python troup understood it well.