May 23, 2003 - a day that will live in Atlantic City beer history.

What happened on that date that was so important? Why the opening of Firewaters at Tropicana, that's what!

Previously, the beer desert of Atlantic City had very little to offer other than megabrewers' fizzy golden lagers, Guinness and the occasional Sam Adams or Flying Fish sighting.

The gleaming stainless steel wall with an actual 51 taps and coolers filled with more than 100 different bottled brands, brought a flutter to this beer geek's heart.

I arrived that day dropping off some beer from now defunct Heavyweight Brewing and met the inimitable (now ex) beer manager, Doug Carlin. Being owned by the Hooters' franchisee, I expected to find a majority of the taps occupied by megaswill, but was pleasantly surprised by the eclectic collection of craft beers.

It quickly became a beer geeks' heaven and selections not available east of Philly or south of New York began to make their appearances on the handles.

A network of friends, some of whom worked at Trop, would keep in touch to advise us what was being tapped and when. Several visits a week became the norm and the once Hooter girl bartenders began to become beer savvy wellsprings of information. Several of them are still pouring today and have a whole new outlook on beer.

General Manager Ryan Capozzoli tries to keep the taps fresh and the bottle selection varied. He orders the best of what the distributors have to offer and will tap the rarer ones at special events to allow the regulars first shot at them.

Now that craft beer has become so popular, competition has sprung up all over town. But still, the original holds a certain charm and, like Cheers, is a place where everybody knows your name.

Stop by and check out the selection. Be sure to bring a designated driver as you're going to want to spend several hours there. Salud!

As I said, craft beer has become ubiquitous in the area and new places are opening up to fill the desire to taste something different. Musselbar in Revel is a Belgian beer bar with 33 taps, 96 bottles and soon to have 4 cask offerings. Definitely a place to find some esoteric beers not seen in too many places down here like Antigoon, Gulden Draak(my favorite), Delerium Tremens, Kasteel Tripel and Duvel.

Also, Vagabond Kitchen and Taphouse at 672 N. Trenton Ave, Atlantic City, has opened and offers a dozen taps and a small but ecelectic bottle selection. To accompany them, a menu of innovative pub specialties is available to make the experience complete. Brought to you by the owners of the Back Bay Ale House, the taps are heavy on the local side with offerings from Dogfish Head, Yards, Sly Fox and Weyerbacher.

Attention homebrewers: Another reminder about the Tun Tavern Homebrew Contest. Entries are due May 1. Details available at tuntavern.com and presscontests.com. Good luck!