FAIRMONT, W.Va. — James P. Lewis and Jason Ely are competitors.
Not only do they both grow and harvest the same crop, but they are among only a select few to do so in the state.
But in order to be successful they have decided to team up to grow and harvest hops.
They have planted rows upon rows of bright green hops plants, which cling to trellises and produce flowering cones.
These cones, which Ely describes as “a miniature slumpy green pinecone that smells citrusy,” are about one to two inches in length and are light when held in the palm of a hand.
But as little as they are, hops have changed the craft beer industry.
They are a key ingredient that can make beer taste bitter, citrusy, earthy and even floral depending on the variety.
But local breweries don’t want the bright green flowering cone — they just want what lies inside.
Little yellow beads, which almost look like pollen, are the essential oils used when making a craft beer.
Recently, the two growers worked on Lewis’ farm — Spring Water Farms LLC in Fairview — to harvest more than 200 pounds of hops.
Lewis, a West Virginia University physics professor, said he first got the idea to grow and harvest the plants nearly 6-7 years ago after he visited the Czech Republic…