• Written by Lewis Townsend
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First brewed in 1998, the name ‘Elsie Mo’ is derived from the predominant malt in the recipe – Low Colour Maris Otter, or LCMO.  We liked how the name sounded, and decided to turn the “brand” into a personality. After being inspired by the historical images of US aircraft nose art, we made the decision for the pump clip to feature a character playing homage to the 1940s pin-up style.

Over the next two decades, Elsie Mo became our second most popular and best-selling beer in our core range, and continues to win a variety of local, regional and national awards. It’s a great beer, consistently produced by great brewers, and continues to be a key part in the success of Castle Rock. However, it’s time to acknowledge that the sexualised presentation of Elsie Mo is deemed not acceptable in a culture that strives for, and celebrates, equality.

One of our key aims at Castle Rock has always been to ensure our customers feel comfortable, and we recognise that we have let some people down. Over the last few years, we’ve questioned the Elsie Mo branding ourselves, as well as customers. In 2014, we re-branded Elsie, wanting to better integrate the image within the historical context intended. The consensus from our customer base that the pump clip was improved, but the depiction of Elsie Mo remained a contentious issue. While we never set out to offend anyone, we acknowledge that the pump clip – in all versions over the years – may have been regarded as offensive. Now it’s time to move forward.

The new pump clip for Elsie is designed to celebrate the will and bravery of women, both in times gone by and today, without losing its original heritage. We’ve taken inspiration from the women pilots of the second world war, who took to the skies in Spitfires, Lancasters and Hurricanes, to deliver battle-ready planes to fighter pilots of the RAF.

We worked closely with our designer, Nick Pettit, to ensure the new pump clip is spot on. Nick is a brand specialist in the brewing industry and studied imagery and propaganda of the World Wars as his art school thesis, so this was a project that we were all very invested in.

We were especially influenced by Giles Whittell’s Spitfire Women of World War II, published in 2008. The collection focuses on true stories from the women of the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) who, although not allowed into combat, flew unarmed – without radios or instruments, and at the mercy of the weather and enemy aircraft – to deliver planes to the front lines.

There are stories and photographs of these women, featuring famous names like Amy Johnson and Maureen Dunlop among those of unsung heroes. We worked to capture the bravery of the women of the ATA, and the confidence they exude in these photographs, to inspire a pump clip that we can all be proud of. Most importantly, Elsie’s now in the pilot’s seat, where perhaps she should have been all along.

While the new design continues to pay homage to the war effort and the unsung bravery of these pilots, we also want it to be an empowering image – to be a pump clip that proudly celebrates women in all industries, including our own, as well as being an inspirational image for all. Beer is for everyone after all!

The recipe and process for Elsie Mo remains the same, we promise.

We hope you love the new design, which we’ll be rolling out across the country in the coming weeks and months.

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