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If you’ve spent any time shopping for meat and cheese on South 9th Street in Philadelphia, you’ve heard the word.
It entered the national consciousness a couple of decades ago, as Tony Soprano and family ate their way through the popular TV show. Others remember it from “The Office,” in an infamous episode where Michael tries to order it for a client he’s convinced is a mobster.
For Italian-Americans in the Philadelphia region, where it’s been part of the vernacular for centuries, “gabagool” is just what you call that essential part of a salumi tray, or a classic hoagie.
To a trio of brewers in South Jersey, the dialect for “capicola” is the perfect name for a beer.
Gabagool is the newest offering from Eight & Sand Beer Co., a Woodbury, N.J., microbrewery that opened in 2016. An Italian pilsner, it debuts this month, and the team will (very appropriately) be offering samples at the Italian Market Festival this weekend.
The name is more than just pandering to an audience that relishes the Italian-American slang — along with “superset,” “brazhoot,” “rigawt,” “galamad,” and other words — that’s mostly unique to this area. It’s rooted in the brewery partners’ own heritage.
Eight & Sand owner Dominick Mazzone said his grandfather used to make the cured pork shoulder and neck back in Italy, and his dad Giuseppe brought the technique to the U.S. Now he’s taking part in the tradition: “We get together each year to make our own capicola!”
The beer itself is not made with capicola — “There is no actual meat in this beer,” said Chris Mazzone, brewery co-founder, who also joins the family’s annual capicola-making sessions.
But Gabagool beer would make a perfect pairing with its namesake ingredient.
Italian pilsners are essentially more aromatic versions of the classic German-style pils that’s since been adapted into American standards like Budweiser. Their signature characteristic is dry-hopping — steeping the lager with hops after the brew process is done — which adds a ton of flavor but very little bitterness.
Eight & Sand cofounder and head brewer Chris Burke is a big fan of the style. He noted that craft lagers have become more and more popular, “which is fantastic since we love to make and drink them.”
This particular Italian pilsner pours bright gold and is extremely effervescent. The soft white head dissipates quickly, but bubbles continue flowing to the top of the glass for several minutes.
There’s a lemony scent that doesn’t really follow in flavor when you take a sip. The liquid is smooth, almost syrupy, but balanced by the tinge of strong hops. It swallows easily, leaving a maltier-than-expected taste on your tongue that lingers only briefly.
Gabagool comes in at 5.5% ABV, so you can sling back a couple at a family picnic without too much worry.
A four-pack of 16-oz. pounders runs just $13 at the brewery, where you can order online for curbside pickup or hang in the outdoor taproom. It’s also available on tap around Philadelphia, including at Triangle Tavern and Hawthornes.
If you’re at the Italian Market Festival, look for the Eight & Sand stand to get your first sip.