Lincoln Beer Company is a place where rocket scientists, Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts, pinball wizards and beer lovers alike gather to contemplate their mutual interest: outer space.
Headed up by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s very own Doug Isbell — dubbed “Astro Doug” by affectionate bargoers — Space Night at the craft brewery and taproom drew a sizeable crowd of folks Tuesday night.
Isbell’s topic was a dramatic one: asteroids.
The crowd hushed as he took the mic and dove into his lecture, which defined the many variants of asteroids, and the number currently known to dwell in the solar system. Then Isbell provided listeners with a history of missions involving asteroids, and chronicled humanity’s attempts to shift an asteroid’s course, testing our capabilities of preventing collisions with Earth.
A science and risk communication specialist for JPL, Isbell is the right guy to translate often brain-twisting concepts for people who, let’s be honest, have had a brew or two.
One attendee, Lindsey Jane — a Lincoln Beer regular — typically visits the drinking hole for trivia night on Tuesdays. Last week, when manager Caissey Agtual announced that Space Night would take the place of weekly trivia, Jane’s interest was sparked.
“The manager announced ‘no trivia night next week, it’s space night’ — and I am just obsessed with space. I love all things space, so I was thought, free space talk? I’m there. And here I am. It was a lot of fun, and I think everyone learned a lot and had a good time,” Jane said.
Another student of Lincoln Beer University, Amber Edgar, likened the discussion to a real life version of the movie “Don’t Look Up” a film about the world’s lackadaisical response to an impending asteroid impact.
“Obviously, the film was a parody, but you wonder what’s the reality of our defense? So it was nice to hear that scientists are looking into this stuff, they’re all sharing their data and running tests,” Edgar said.
Space night returns every month or two. Isbell follows the lunar calendar to pick out a date that is most likely to have ideal conditions for looking through a telescope, weather permitting. This week, the stargazing portion of Space Night was cancelled due to cloud cover.
Isbell has been a regular at Lincoln Beer Company since they opened their doors back in 2016.
“One day I thought, I should bring my telescope and see what people think. People just kind of gravitated to it, and then the next time, the bar let me do a lecture. It’s been pretty successful. I’ve had some of my colleagues from JPL come out and give talks, and it’s a great outlet for me to talk about different things I’m interested in,” Isbell told the Leader.
Isbell said he tries to keep the talks short and sweet — about 20 or 30 minutes — before foraying into the telescope portion.
“You have to tell people that Space Night is happening ahead of time so that you don’t interrupt their beer drinking, and then they’ve suddenly got a science lecture in their face. The telescope has been a hit and helps bring people in,” Isbell said.
Since starting space night four years ago, Isbell has brought on a few of his peers at JPL to give lectures, often on topics related to their work and the science behind the NASA mission of the day.
Since then, he’s developed a regular following of space enthusiasts who follow his lectures intently, and no doubt jump at the opportunity to peer into the depths of a crater or watch a passing Saturn when it is most visible.
After the lecture, there is always time for questions. Isbell expertly works the crowd to answer its many burning queries that have bubbled up into the listeners’ minds from their glasses.
“We have a bunch of regulars who absolutely love coming out specifically for space night. Doug started as a regular and he just kind of got to talking and said he had this awesome telescope that he would love to bring out. He’s our buddy. We all know him and he puts his lectures in a way that anyone can understand,” said Agtual.
Interested stargazers can learn more about Isbell’s events from the Burbank Sidewalk Astronomy Facebook page or the Lincoln Beer Company’s website: lincolnbeercompany.com.
First published in the May 27 print issue of the Burbank Leader.