Schiltz gets ready to pump wort into one of Elevator's seven fermentation tanks. Once the wort is cooled, it's moved to the fermenter, where yeast is added. The yeast eats the sugars, creating the ethyl alcohol and carbonation found in beer.

All beers can be divided into two basic types: ales and lagers. The fermentation process determines which; ales ferment for four days at higher temperatures, lagers for 10 days at cooler temperatures. The temperature difference accounts for the fruity esters of ales and the crisp, cleaner taste of lagers.

A common misconception is that beer can be identified by its color, but hue has nothing to do with it. "Stouts are black and they're an ale," Elevator owner Dick Stevens explained. "Doppelbock is equally as dark, but is a lager."

Once the sugars are gone, fermentation is complete and that's as strong as it will get. Now you have beer - but it's not quite ready. It goes through a filtering process (wheat beers forgo this part, causing their cloudy coloring) as it's pumped into a holding place called a bright tank to be metered for taxes.

Federal excise tax is $7 a barrel or $3.50 a keg. State taxes are only assessed for breweries producing 1 million barrels or more.

Elevator also uses its bright tank to push up the carbon dioxide content before kegging and bottling, so it's carbonated like the beer we all know and love.