Brewery promotes ‘Elsie Mo’ from pinup to pilot

Castle Rock Brewery has announced it has rebranded the character on its most popular and longest-standing beer ‘Elsie Mo’, changing her from a pinup to pilot; a move that is especially pertinent given the recent discussions surrounding sexism in the beer industry.

First brewed 20 years ago in 1998, the beer has been one of the brewery’s best-sellers but one that has occasionally courted controversy for its depiction of the titular ‘Elsie Mo’.

Inspired right from the start by the ‘nose art’ that often adorned fighter planes and bombers in the Second World War, the first depiction of Elsie on the pump clip was (to put it mildly) rather crude and featured the tagline, “full bodied and irresistible”.

In 2014 the clip was redesigned and featured Elsie in the well-known, if mildly risqué, wartime 1940s ‘Pinup’ art style (picture below right).

Now the decision has been made to refresh the brand again, this time putting Elsie in the cockpit of a fighter plane.

In a statement on its website, Castle Rock explained: “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.”

The new image of Elsie was inspired by the 168 female pilots who were part of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) during WW2.

Along with their male counterparts*, the women were responsible for flying all manner of planes – including the war’s most famous models such as the Spitfire, Hurricane, Mosquito and Mustang fighters and even Lancaster bombers – from their factories to RAF aerodromes across the UK.

It was the first British government-run organisation (it was civilian not military) where women could not only attain equal rank to their male colleagues but received equal pay as well. Women serving in the American version of the ATA, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) received some 35% less pay than the male pilots.

Women from Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US, Poland and the Netherlands all served in the ATA, two received commendations for their service and 15 were killed – including famed aviatrix Amy Johnson (the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930 among other achievements) who died in 1941 when she bailed out over the Thames Estuary in bad weather.

Castle Rock concluded: “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.

“We worked to capture the bravery of the women of the ATA, and the confidence they exude in 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.”

 

*The men in the ATA were capable pilots but had been rejected for active service in the RAF for various reasons such as age or disability. Many were former RAF pilots who had suffered a debilitating injury in combat such as loss of a leg or hand but who could still fly in a non-combat role.

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