In 2012, Roger Worthington had a vision of building his own "Beertopia." The Worthy Brewing founder and owner describes it as "a mini-campus, a place where a person can make connections, can be stimulated, a place where the mind can expand." His first step toward Beertopia: Looking to the stars.
Worthy Brewing is finishing construction on an observatory tower, or "Hopservatory," as part of an expansion project at the brewery-restaurant. Once completed, the observatory will include a research-grade telescope to be used for viewing tours hosted by the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver. Worthington hopes to open the observatory to the public by early December.
"What I want to do is use the observatory to give people a look at space, intrigue them, inspire them and educate them," he said. "They'll want to become students of where we are in the universe and appreciate how vast and infinite things are and how much we don't know."
The expansion project also includes an additional dining room and upper mezzanine (partially covered by a solar panel awning), both galaxy-themed, and "Hop Mahal," a banquet room.
The observatory will be owned and operated by Worthy Garden Club, a nonprofit organization that promotes research and education focused on hops. To operate and maintain the equipment, WGC recruited the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver. Visitors will be able to check out the observatory during tours led by docents from the Oregon Observatory. Tours will start at the base of the Hopservatory, dubbed the "Transporter Room," which will showcase space-themed artwork and astronomy videos.
Bob Grossfeld, the Oregon Observatory's manager, says visitors can expect some unique programming. "The Worthy Brewery setup will give people a good taste of viewing through a telescope," he said. "We'll be able to look at bright objects and planets and things that are in the night sky that are different from what we look at from our observatory."
The exact schedule is still in development, though there's talk of several tours, several nights a week for low prices—but Worthington said it really all depends on the reception the place receives. Still, Grossfeld says visitors can expect unique content.
"It will be totally different programs from the ones offered at Sunriver observatory," he said. "I think they'll complement each other very well."
A big factor for the different content is Worthy's location. "Anytime you're in town, you have light pollution," Grossfeld said. "We do see a lot of light pollution in Bend compared to south of Deschutes County."
However, it's a challenge he is embracing. "It's a great educational opportunity," Grossfeld said. "From a viewing standpoint, we'll still be able to look at bright objects and some of the things that are visible from that location. And they have a nice telescope going in there that will do very well in looking at objects that are fairly bright, even in a light polluted area."
The telescope is similar to the ones used at Sunriver, just slightly smaller. It was custom-made for the Worthy Observatory, which added to some of the challenges the observatory has faced during its construction.
"Getting a telescope is not an easy thing, and that took a long time," Worthington says. "Building a spiral staircase sounds easy but around here it's very difficult. That was a two-three month delay. And then the normal hiccups from any construction project." Even with the delays, though, Worthington commended Sunwest Builders and architect Seth Anderson, as well as the Observatory at Sunriver, for their "incredible work" on the project.
Grossfeld is excited for the unique opportunities Worthy's observatory will create. "I see a lot more programming being able to be done at that location in regards to space science and astronomy in general," he said. "I think there's some real unique opportunities that once we get the basic operation up and going we'll be able to expand quite a bit in adding some other opportunities for locals to take advantage of the facility." Grossfeld added that the construction at Worthy and the planned expansions at Sunriver and Pine Mountain Observatories are slowly making Central Oregon a go-to destination for astronomy.
With the observatory, Worthington hopes to provide people with a better perspective of our planet. "I want visitors to use space as a mirror to look back at Earth—this little blue marble we all live on—and hopefully say, 'Man, this is a great planet. We need to take better care of it,'" he said with a smile. "It's exciting but also a little daunting."
The idea makes perfect sense to Grossfeld. "I mean, beer, pizza and viewing; how could you go wrong there?"
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