After the hordes of tourists with their cameras and selfie sticks depart from the Tower of London every evening, a private drinking hole for Beefeaters comes to life within the walls of the royal fortress.
Officially called Yeoman Warders and instantly recognisable with their distinctive hats and uniforms, the 37 Beefeaters live with their families inside the fortified complex which houses the crown jewels, glittering symbol of the British monarchy.
While living in a castle on the bank of the Thames has a unique cachet, Beefeaters share their home with close to three million visitors a year and spend much of their time conducting tours, answering questions and posing for photographs.
After the daily hubbub fades, they can change out of their uniforms and head for a quiet drink at the Yeoman Warders’ Club, their own private bar in a discreet corner of the sprawling fortress a much-needed respite.
“There are certainly two sides to life here at the Tower,” club chairman John Donald, who has been a Beefeater for three and a half years, said.
“When we are here looking after the general public, we’re very much in the public domain, very, very busy answering lots of questions. And then come 6 o’clock it becomes our own little village again, where as a community we can relax and enjoy ourselves.”
That relaxation could take the form of a pint of Beefeater Bitter, a beer made by Marston’s Brewery in Staffordshire, central England, and available only in the Yeoman Warders’ Club.
In keeping with the history of the Tower of London, which has served many purposes over the centuries from royal residence to the prison where two of King Henry VIII’s wives were beheaded, the club is decorated with unusual objects.
Among them is a plaque that reads “Site of Scaffold” kept as a souvenir after it was removed from the site where executions took place. For good measure, the Yeoman Gaoler’s axe hangs just above it, a ghoulish reminder of the gruesome past.
Another glass case displays one of the Beefeaters’ scarlet State dress uniforms, known to gin lovers around the world from the labels on bottles of Beefeater Gin, but now worn only on special occasions such as Queen Elizabeth’s birthday.
In their day-to-day duties, Beefeaters now wear a dark blue and red “undress” uniform, while at the private club they can relax in everyday clothes.