Oregon ranks first in breweries per capita, earning it nicknames like Beervana and Brewtopia so naturally that there’s a self-perceived air of being the center of the Brewniverse. Portland has the human and brewery population, but Bend has the density, thereby giving it the gravitational pull to pull off something astronomical. Like this: Worthy Brewing is launching its own observatory. The tagline: “Beertopia. Where Heaven Meets Earth.”
Worthy Brewing owner Roger Worthington made his crash landing in the local beer scene in 2010 with his Portland-based Indie Hops company, which supplies hops to craft brewers and helps fund OSU’s hop breeding program. But before his life in beer, Worthington was a California attorney representing cancer victims of the asbestos industry. He founded the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation in 2000 and the Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute in 2002, and raised millions of funds but no eyebrows. Worthington grew up in Corvallis surrounded by hop fields and, after his successful first career, he moved to Bend where, as an amateur cyclist, he supports and participates in the Tour Des Chutes which also raises funds for cancer patients.
“I’ve looked down all my life, as an athlete and as a lawyer,” says Worthington. “Now I’m reminding myself to look up.”
Expansion has been a part of the semi-eponymous Worthy story since the day it opened in 2013. From the brewhouse to the kitchen and the beer garden, it’s an ever-widening endeavor. The next project will see them growing up—or at least gazing that way. Discussing plans to build an observatory at the brewery, Worthington says, “I want to build a place where Heaven meets Earth. I’m working with the University of Oregon Physics Department to source a telescope.” Specifically, he’d like to commission a vintage scope (like the one pictured) that graced LA’s Griffith Park Observatory.
The U of O Physics Department already runs the Pine Mountain Observatory 26 miles southeast of Bend, but good luck getting someone to serve you a pint of Eruption Imperial Red Ale there.
Come to think of it, some of Worthy’s beer names start to fit into place. Black Light Porter. Lights Out Stout. Dark Muse Imperial Stout. Alongside the entirely astronomy-themed Ecliptic Brewing in Portland and beer fermented with space yeast from Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, Oregon’s brewing scene is going all Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The brewery is already a stellar destination, with a hop yard where experimental hop varietals are growing to give a taste of the future alongside historic hops dating to 18th-century England as if the quarter-acre yard were a time warp. Then there’s the otherworldly beer garden. The observatory, notes Worthington, is still being mapped out, but it will rise over four stories and become part of the campus once they extend the floor around the brewery. Time will tell if he makes good on his vow to “adorn (the observatory) with hop bines.”
People tend to feel more profound while drinking beer, but with the addition of the observatory, Worthington says, “I want to cultivate a place where people make epiphanies and connect themselves to the universe.”
Plans are to run the observatory as a non-profit with the Physics Department as its “docents.” Construction may begin as early as October and it would then open next year.