I broke down and Did The Thing – for this week’s Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs, I asked ChatGPT about a pub, and here’s what it said when I asked it to describe The Underdog:
The Underdog is a popular pub located in the heart of Dublin, Ireland. It is known for its lively atmosphere and good selection of drinks and food. People often visit the pub for its friendly staff, good music, and great social atmosphere. It is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, especially in the evenings and on weekends. The Underdog is an important part of the Dublin pub culture and is considered a must-visit destination for those looking to experience the city’s famous nightlife.
Leaving aside the many and various issues associated with this kind of technology as it exists today, what strikes me is how generic it makes The Underdog sound – something of an achievement in its own right, given how The Underdog is absolutely unique in Dublin as a craft beer destination, and its extended absence from the local scene was very much felt. First, though, some context for non-locals.
The Underdog originally opened in 2017, in the basement of Brogan’s on Dame Street – an ideal location from a city centre/pre-show/transit point of view, though very much less so in others, which we’ll get to later. Descending the steps to the cosy, 18-tap AND BEER ENGINE bar always felt a bit magical; I visited for the first time on a work trip not long after they initially opened, and would always pop in on subsequent trips before we officially moved to Dublin. As it happens we moved here three years ago this week, and, given that timing, you can probably see where this is going. In my pre-pandemic ignorance, I thought I’d be stopping in regularly, and I did manage two visits, one with the now-seemingly-hibernating local branch of the Mikkeller Running Club, and one the night before lockdown happened; at least, I got to go out on a high with a pint of cask Jaipur after running, and some excellent local beers on that final night out.
Once lockdown happened, The Underdog managed to occasionally operate as a beer take-away of sorts, but when they did not re-open when all other pubs finally could – something that only happened a little over a year ago for those non-food pubs, distant though that seems to me now – the word through the grapevine was not positive. Issues with the building were mentioned frequently, and indeed, that seemed to be the blocker. Although the Dame Street location was extremely handy for its proximity to The Olympia Theatre, shopping and Dublin Castle, the latter was part of the problem. The River Poddle was diverted to create a moat around the castle in medieval times, and it still flows under and around much of Dame Street today – a resulting flood put paid to the idea of re-opening The Underdog in its original home. So much for the supposed secret tunnels.
After what seemed like a very long period without a home, the very welcome news came that The Underdog would be ‘popping up’ at The Legal Eagle for a seemingly-unspecified period of time, and it re-opened in the new digs in November, 2022. It brought back (almost) everything for which it was rightly beloved among beer nerds: a fantastic, always-fresh line-up of both local and overseas craft beers, with a wide mix of styles and strengths, an always-personal welcome from Paddy and the team, and a cosy, though not subterranean setting. As a slight aside, it’s worth noting that the routes to and from the basement toilets can seem a bit maze-like – or maybe that’s only after a few drinks? The only thing missing is the beer engine, though I have been reassured it will be coming soon – there is a ‘cask’ sign on the wall, just waiting to list its featured offering, so I have every confidence it will not be long now. In any case, this is not the kind of ‘craft beer bar’ you see in some places around the world, with 25 identikit IPAs (or even, ‘IPAs’ – IYKYK) – you may find Saison Dupont on next to local stalwarts like Trouble and Third Barrel, or a partial tap takeover from the likes of Spain’s Oddity Brewing, to recall a recent event.
It is worth emphasising that The Underdog is still Dublin’s only true ‘craft beer bar’ – somewhat surprising for a capital city, certainly, even a relatively small one, but there is no other direct comparison. While the various Galway Bay pubs – many of which we will be visiting individually as part of this series – do a great job of showing off their own beer, as well as some fine guest taps, and it’s also true that there will be a few other pubs and bars covered that can be counted on to have some good, non-macro options, nothing else really fits the definition as squarely as The Underdog. It’s one of a kind.
And to revisit the AI-generated words on The Underdog, I also have to say that it misses out the other key aspect of the place – the fact that it is impossible to go in without running into at least a few people you know. The beer nerd world in Ireland overall is small but mighty: thoroughly welcoming to blow-ins like me, but you do tend to see the same faces when out and about. To be clear, this is not at all a complaint – it’s a feature, not a bug, and a really lovely one. Even if I do head to The Underdog on my own, I know I’ll end up at a table with friends, over some really excellent beers; it’s got a real sense of community about it, but not in an exclusionary way – everyone is welcome.
I cannot wait for Cask Night to return.
Where: The Underdog at The Legal Eagle, 1-2 Chancery Pl, Inns Quay, Dublin 1, D07 HP40
Access from the city centre: Buses 26, 39, 83; Red Line Luas; 5-10 minute walk
Food: A lovely cheese board – possibly more to come in the future
TVs: Nope – screens show what’s on tap
Music: There in the background, not too loud – nothing live
Family-friendliness: Highly recommend having a decade between children, so the older one can watch the younger one – proper grown-up night out!
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Fidelity, Bonobo, The Brazen Head is just across the river, and one could carry on into Smithfield, Stoneybatter…
Local sites of note: Four Courts, St Michan’s Church, St Audoen’s Church, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia
Haunted: The current building is a few hundred years old…but no obvious tales
Other notes: Taplist is kept updated on Taplist.io and highlighted on Instagram
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