By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Roger Worthington, owner of Bend’s Worthy Brewing, seamlessly blends his interest in art, space, science, brewing, renewable growth and more with the newest addition to his business — a 50-foot tall observatory.
Named the Hopservatory, it’s on the southwest end of the ever-expanding pub. The Worthy Garden Club, showcasing hops and barley onsite, has partnered with Grant Tandy from the Sunriver Observatory to offer public tours. The addition features a 16-inch reflecting telescope and a smaller refractory one.
“The goal is to raise scientific literacy and educate visitors about big and unwieldy concepts like space, size, time, distance and speed in our solar system and beyond,” according to Worthy’s website.
“Our Garden Club marries heaven and earth,” said Worthington. “Our mission is to promote planet earth.” He hopes to give visitors a new perspective on the cosmos and a new appreciation for our home. “It’s ridiculous to think that we can populate another planet ... it’s not a good use of our resources.
“I reach 1,200-1,400 people a day here in the summer,” said Worthington. “Why not have them look up — look through a telescope at the sky — have them view the stars and planets and suns and moons and all the magic up there and get some perspective on our home here?”
Currently, tours are offered at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays. Online reservations are recommended since space is limited to 20 people. The $5 fee goes to Worthy Garden Club’s education programs. Observatory manager Tandy is on hand for open viewings without registration 9-11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Scheduled tours begin in the appropriately named Transporter Room, situated between the Beermuda Triangle bar and the Hop Mahal banquet room. This space features mosaic tiles on the floor depicting celestial wonders, and the colorful curved walls of Venetian plaster represent the center of the Earth rising to the stars. Several TV monitors play educational videos about astronomy.
From here, a guide leads visitors up the adjacent spiral staircase that winds around the observatory that will eventually be covered with hops. On the second floor, guests pass the new Star Bar, which opened June 6 for customers 21 and older.
The next stop is the control room: a dark, quiet, cool area that feels like a library. Here guests watch a video by Jerry Niehuser from the Sunriver Observatory that helps put the light year distance from Earth to assorted planets in a relatable context. Niehuser talks about how long it would take an email to get to us here from Mars and other planets, which would be as long as 500 years in some cases.
After another hike up the spiral staircase, the guide opens the door to the dome and telescopes. On the night I went, two students at Central Oregon Community College led the session, showing us a star cluster, Saturn and a nebulae. After everyone had a turn looking through the telescopes, the group went outside to view constellations. Despite some surrounding light from nearby buildings and a light cloud cover, we clearly spotted several with the aid of the guides.
“We’re able to see things here that you can’t at Sunriver, even though they have more telescopes and more powerful ones,” said Worthington.
The Hopservatory is also available for private tours and as an add-on for large parties. If they sky is overcast on your scheduled date, the Worthy Garden Club offers “cloudchecks” to be used on a better viewing night. Ultimately, Worthington hopes people will come not only for a beer, but also for enlightenment.
“We’re all in this Earth lifeboat together. We can choose to work together and fix it,” said Worthington.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.