Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Underdog 3.0

Outside the (new) UnderdogAnd…it’s back!

Yes, as of this very week, The Underdog has been reborn again, and all 20 taps are now present and accounted for at the top of Capel Street. Happily, the iconic yellow neon sign is also now in place above the door, offering that extra little level of comfort and security. In the new spot – the former Galway Bay joints Taco Libre and Paddle & Peel – it’s now a dangerously-convenient walk from my house, and as I’d missed the opening night with some last-minute work travel (and then a nightmarish extra night away in Amsterdam, a city I would like to visit on purpose some day, but whose airport did not impress in any way), I had to stop in for a quick beer as I was walking past anyway mid-week.

At the bar in the new UnderdogAs it was the summer solstice, and I was on my way to see the 50th anniversary screening of The Wicker Man as per the custom of my people, it was especially appropriate to try a beer from Verdant on my way. While I still have yet to find their Weird Walk collaboration beer, Ritual, I did very much enjoy The First Note. And I *wish* I could make it to the brewery in Cornwall for their Leyline event, which features all sorts of folk horror-adjacent oddness, but well – this had to do (and it did it beautifully).

Back room at the new UnderdogBut back to the new Underdog – what’s it like? Well, it’s brighter and fresher than either previous incarnation – not difficult, no longer being in a cellar or in a dark, dark room – and it feels like there’s more space to spread out, with a variety of seating types, from barstools and solo tables to some more communal spots in the main rooms. The taps are still displayed on the screens above the bar, with another set of screens in the back room; very handy for planning that second drink without having to take up valuable bar space thinking. But as before, Paddy and team can be relied on to give top-notch recommendations, and there’s an extensive bottle and can selection in addition to the fresh taps.

Cask is comingWhat there is not – yet – is cask, but the cask sign is in place, and ready for the two handpumps that will be appearing in the not-too-distant future (I’ve been promised this, no one would lie to me about cask ale). Food is also not an option just at present, but there are plans to add some bites later in the summer if all goes well. But with so many food options on Capel Street, there is plenty of opportunity to stay well-fed.

As before, the digital taplist seen in the bar is available online as well, so you can easily do some advance planning. It’s also worth keeping an eye on the socials for events like tap takeovers and general ‘hey, look what we just tapped’ updates. And for a bit of a sense of that taplist, it’s still the most diverse in Dublin – an ever-changing mix of strengths and styles, with beers from near and far – everything from a straightforward Irish stout (the Whiplash one, not the Other One) to a Lapsang Souchong-infused lambic from Belgium. Sure, there are lots of hazebois from all over at the moment, but it’s what people are asking for, so that’s understandable (and they tend to be the actually good ones), and things are always rotating.

I am very much not mad about the new location being so conveniently located for me – just far enough away to feel like I’ve had a bit of a walk, but close enough to simply drop in on a whim. All hail Underdog, thrice-born of its kind!

Where: Underdog, 199 King St N, Rotunda, Dublin 1, D07 PR5X (essentially, the top of Capel Street)
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 11, 16, 44, 46A, 155, Luas Green Line, 15-20 minute walk
Food: Patience
Sport: No
TVs: Also no
Music: Always a great indie soundtrack on the speakers
Family-friendliness: There are some outdoor tables if you need to stop off with your kids on the way to Penneys
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Black Sheep, J McNeill’s, The King’s Inn, Bonobo, Bar 1661, The Church, Slattery’s…and many more – not too far to L Mulligan. Grocer
Local sites of note: National Leprechaun Museum, Wolfe Tone Square, 14 Henrietta Street, King’s Inns, Smyth’s Toy Superstore is a must-visit, per my smaller child
Haunted: I’ve heard the site is mildly cursed, but hope that has been resolved
Other notes: An incredibly speedy turn-around – last pints poured at the old location in April, first ones poured here in mid-June
Socials: Instagram

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Black Sheep

As promised last week, we’ll be visiting a number of Galway Bay pubs in this series; while one of the things I really enjoy about their various bars is that each has a bit of its own character and style, I’m particularly lucky that one of my favourites happens to be a relatively short walk away from my now-home – something of a happy accident. Let’s rewind.

I first encountered The Black Sheep on a work trip to Dublin in 2016; at the time, we were living in Seattle and had no plans to move (again). I recently came across the old WhatsApp group that was used to coordinate post-meeting sustenance and frivolity. In those conversations, I saw The Black Sheep described as ‘kind of like Brave Horse‘ – the now-shuttered bar in the middle of the Amazon campus where people would go to extend their desk-crying sessions over a pint – and also as ‘one of those hipster beer places, but more Irish.’ However, I was also warned that it was ‘far from most other things’ and that the area was ‘kind of sketch, but no guns, so all cool!’ Thus prepared, I set out with a small group of fellow Amazonian beer nerds after a long day of meetings, looking at the ‘trek’ from the offices to the supposedly ‘sketch’ Northside of Dublin as quite an adventure.

Cask Corner in the Before-TimesIf memory serves, there was mild disappointment from some in the group on the nearly-complete lack of ‘sketch,’ but everyone was very pleased to find The Black Sheep had something for everyone in our group – cask ale (sigh – more on this in a moment), some good Galway Bay beers, a guest tap or two that catered to other tastes, and possibly the oddest nachos I’ve ever come across – the chips on the night were certainly not made from corn, but whether that was a case of ‘the kitchen ran out and improvised’ or whether that was the recipe at the time, I cannot say – jumping ahead briefly, I am pleased to report the current state of Black Sheep nachos is very different – in a good way! On that occasion, we sat at one of the big tables on the Cask Corner (sob! again!) side of the pub, but I made a firm mental note of the comfy couch by the window and the bar seating on the other side, and immediately made plans to return on my own a few days later. For the record, Untappd tells me that on that initial visit, I had a White Hag Little Fawn and Galway Bay’s own Pilot 014 – Dortmunder Lager.

Some of the Father Ted artAs planned, I stopped back in for a solo pint on the couch before heading home, taking in the Father Ted wall decorations and the usual tin brewery signs, I thought about what a thoroughly pleasant pub it was, and that this was somewhere I would visit regularly if I lived nearby. As that was not even a vague idea, I thought no more of it, but continued to make a point of stopping in on subsequent work trips – the fact that it was not especially close to the Amazon offices, but was quite convenient for Chapters Books may well have played a part; once again, Untappd let me know that in March of 2019, I had some lovely cask pints – from Kirkstall, in this case – over some newly-acquired books. And then, later that year I got the unexpected offer to take a new role in Dublin and, well – here we are.

While we initially lived south of the river for a year – a combination of a pandemic, a relocation agent who refused to believe that we actually meant it when we said we were ‘city people’ and the ongoing housing crisis in Ireland, when we finally had the chance to move to the Northside, we took it, our landlord from the old house telling us, in all seriousness, that we were ‘so brave,’ notwithstanding. (Some Southside Dubliners have a very skewed idea of what happens once you cross the Liffey – it’s a thing). While we had not planned it, we ended up only a few minutes’ walk from The Black Sheep; although it’s not quite close enough to be our local, it’s a very easy sell to head in that direction.

The first pint backWhen pubs could finally re-open, after the last of the major Covid restrictions were lifted in January of 2022, The Black Sheep was the first place I headed to get a pint at the bar (again, for the record, a BRU Xtra Pale Ale and a Weights + Measures). Sadly, a combination of Brexit and all things pandemic meant that the Cask Corner did not return to its full function…I give it a bit of a sad look and a sigh each time I’m there, but I am always hopeful that it may, at some point, go back into at least partial use. But even without that, there is much to enjoy at The Black Sheep: the standard Galway Bay beers are always in tip-top shape (I am especially partial to the aforementioned Weights + Measures as well as the Bay Ale), and the guest taps have been varied and interesting, featuring other Irish breweries as well as some international options.

And I have to say, again, that the nachos are the real thing now – although sister bar Taco Libre has closed, some of the skill that went into their excellent chips and guac has settled into The Black Sheep. I am always a fan of the halloumi fries, too, and seem to find an excuse to get them at every Galway Bay location.

Also worth noting is the absence of televisions; for the non-sportsball fan, The Black Sheep can be an oasis of calm when every other pub is full because ‘the game’ is on. And while there are many times when I do want to go see whichever ‘the game’ is on, it’s nice to have alternatives when it’s not your sport or team – or just to have that relaxing solo pint.

That couch is still a very comfortable spot, and it’s wild that I can simply walk there any time.

April 2023 update: Cask Corner lives again! Keep an eye on The Black Sheep’s socials on Thursdays – there’s a lot of good stuff headed our way.

Where: The Black Sheep, 61 Capel St, Rotunda, Dublin
Access from the city centre: 10 minute walk, 46 bus, Luas Green Line
Food: Galway Bay standard pub grub menu
Sport: Nope
TVs: Nope
Music: You are safe here, fellow Gen Xers
Family-friendliness: Kids’ menu, always a welcome at the usual times
Pub-crawl-ability: High – all of Capel Street is right there (edit: and now, the reborn Underdog!), from early houses like Slattery’s to other Galway Bay pubs like The Oak and The Beer Temple on Dame Street if you keep walking…also a short walk to Smithfield and beyond…
Local sites of note: Capel Street, Chapters Books, Wolfe Tone Square, Jervis Centre, ILAC Centre, 14 Henrietta Street, King’s Inns
Haunted: Only by the absence of cask ale, unless anyone has a story to share CASK IS BACK!
Other notes: Everything is on a single floor – no need to trek to a basement toilet; excellent bottle list