Worthy Brewing’s founder is clearly passionate about outer space.
Roger Worthington often walks around his east-side Bend brewery in his signature black sport coat, the one with small white dots signifying the cosmos. He is deeply interested in broad topics like light speed, time and the origins of Earth.
To mix his celestial passion with hops, Worthington attached a 50-foot high observatory to his brewery with two telescopes at the top that are able to see Jupiter, Saturn, globular clusters and the canyons of the moon.
The Hopservatory, as it’s called, will be unveiled to the public Sunday, weather permitting.
“I want people to look up and appreciate the night sky, and appreciate the depth and vastness of the universe because it makes us feel more humble,” Worthington said during a tour Wednesday.
The Hopservatory is separate from the brewery operation. It is a creation of Worthington’s nonprofit Worthy Garden Club, which promotes urban gardening, and the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver.
“Our goal is to stimulate curiosity,” said Worthington, who said the telescopes, the dome, the robotics that move everything and display monitors cost about $250,000.
That doesn’t include the distinctive silo-shaped building attached to the brewery.
Details are still being worked out, but the tentative plan is to have two guides from the Oregon Observatory host tours of 20 people two nights per week. Visitors on the tour will be asked to pay a $5 donation. They will then be able to look through the 16-inch and 4-inch refractor telescopes, and see different planets, the moon and stars. In addition, one of the guides will be outside with a green laser pointing out various constellations.
“We will try to teach people a few things,” Worthington said. “We want people to walk away with something that didn’t really know before.”
Worthington, 56, grew up in Corvallis, but moved to Houston when his stepfather accepted a job at NASA as a radiation biologist. Growing up around astronauts gave Worthington his first exposure to space exploration and astronomy.
He went on to earn a law degree from the University of Texas, and still practices law for a firm dealing with asbestos-related cases in San Pedro, California.
In 2008, Worthington and a childhood friend from Corvallis launched a hop growing business, which led to Worthy Brewing opening in 2013.
It wasn’t until a couple years ago that Worthington reignited his interest in space. He attended a presentation at Oregon Observatory that inspired him to think big, and eventually build his own observatory.
“We are so focused on what is happening in front of us, we lose perspective on our time here and what we are suppose to do here. Why we are here?” he said. “It really gave me a metaphysical spark that led to a quest of trying to get a better perspective of my life.”
Through his renewed passion for space, Worthington noticed so much is focused on traveling and exploring new worlds like Mars, rather than simply observing the galaxies. That thought led him to building the Hopservatory.
“I’m all about space; I’m all about travel, but my philosophy is more that space is a laboratory in which to study light, speed, distance and time — the origins of our planet,” Worthington said. “But it’s also a thing just to behold. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. It’s glorious.”
Tours of the Hopservatory start on the first level, which is called the Transporter Room. The room features cosmic designs on mosaic tile, and three monitors that play slideshows and videos, including live feeds from NASA satellites and from the telescopes on top of the Hopservatory.
“Part of the DNA of the company is this notion of inquisitiveness, curiosity and thirst for knowledge,” said Eric Schusterman, director of communications at Worthy Brewing.
The second floor of the Hopservatory, the Control Room, is accessed by an elevator or spiral staircase. In the Control Room — where posters on the wall display facts such as, “The known cosmos contains approximately 2,000,000,000,000 galaxies” — guides give a preview of what will be observed, and show a short video.
The video features Jerry Niehuser, the longest active employee at the Oregon Observatory, encouraging people to embrace the night sky.
“We spend our nights inside with the lights on. Parents protect their children from the night,” Niehuser says in the video. “In the future we would like more parents outside calling: Come on out kids it’s getting dark.”
The Dome, the top of Hopservatory, houses the two telescopes. Worthington acquired the telescopes from a research institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Oregon Observatory staff helped him find telescopes strong enough to penetrate the urban light pollution.
“We could get a really high-powered telescope, but it would be like trying to drive an Indy 500 race car in a neighborhood,” Worthington said. “You have all that extra horsepower for nothing. These telescopes are really well tailored for light conditions here. We don’t want to waste horsepower.”
Unfortunately for the Hopservatory, it will not give a good view of the total solar eclipse that will pass over Central Oregon in August. The eclipse is expected to peak in Bend at 10:20 a.m., which is too early in the morning for the Hopservatory, said Bob Grossfeld, Oregon Observatory manager. The sun will be too low in the eastern sky to be viewed through the telescopes, Grossfeld said.
Still, Worthington is planning to bring in speakers during the week leading up to the total solar eclipse, including astrophysicists, astronauts and philosophers.
Worthington sees his brewery property as a campus that encourages lifelong learning.
On one end is a hop and herb garden, and now on the other is the Hopservatory, where hops will grow on its exterior.
The property connects people with the Earth through the garden, and space through the observatory, Worthington said.
“I think a lot of people in breweries tend to look down into their beers,” Worthington said. “I’m trying to encourage them to look up.”
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