I was recently browsing a specialty foods store when I spotted some very unusual caramels. I was instantly a fan of the salty pretzel and sweet caramel idea, but to infuse the whole mix with beer? Was this crazy talk or the best idea ever? I’m always up for trying innovative treats, and it wasn’t long before I was standing over a boiling pot of ale-infused caramel in my own kitchen.
After a little trial and error I finally came up with a soft, chewy caramel that is easy to make and eat (it won’t stick to your teeth). It’s salty and sweet, and has a distinctive ale flavor that melds perfectly with the caramel. Very, very YUMMY!
I made the caramels in two different shapes, and both batches went into silicone pans. I’ve never loved silicone for baking, but I own a few specifically for candy-making. I made square caramels in theWilton Brownie Squares silicone pan, and the rest of the caramel was poured into a 9×9 square silicone pan.
This recipe uses an entire 12 oz. bottle of ale. One part ale goes into the main caramel mixture, and the other part is what gives it an extra kick of brown (or pale) ale flavor. Instead of using vanilla extract as a flavoring, one cup of ale is reduced on the stove-top until it is concentrated and a little syrupy. It is then added to the bubbling hot caramel right before it is removed from the stove-top.
When I make these again I’ll probably use the pretzel rods (per recipe below) versus the broken pretzel sticks I used in the square caramels. I like how the finished caramels look, and the texture is just right. The recipe is really simple, but use care when handling the hot napalm-like caramel. It stays scalding-hot for a long while.
One thing you must know about soft caramels: they must be wrapped! If left to their own devices they will relax into little misshapen blobs. Of course they’ll still be yummy, but not as cute. Wax paper works great for wrapping and it is a good kitchen staple to keep on hand anyway.
Here’s something else that might go well with beer and pretzels. It’s the bromance happening between the new dog and Hubby. We think a male must have provided whatever small amount of care he received prior to his fostering. He loooves Marcus, and I’m just a weensy bit jealous. He still sleeps a lot and I can never seem to get a picture of him upright!
We tried on lots of names for him; Rocky, Remi, Rugelach: (which was a fave of mine) all the names that were kindly suggested…only to settle on one of the first names we picked, Churro. I may have to do a churro post in his honor! Thank you so much for your suggestions.
Ale and Pretzel Soft Caramels [click for printable recipe]
Yield: 75+ caramels
1 12 oz. bottle of brown or pale ale, divided
2 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1 8 oz. package pretzel rods (can use pretzel sticks too)
1 roll of wax paper
In a small saucepan bring 1 cup of ale to a simmer and cook until reduced and syrupy. This will take about 20 minutes and yield about 1 tsp. of concentrated ale flavoring. Set aside.
Butter a 13 x 9 inch pan or 2 -9×9 inch pans and set aside. Combine remaining beer and all other ingredients except ale reduction in a heavy 4-5 quart pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Butter will melt and mixture will begin to boil.
Continue to cook until candy thermometer reaches 244 degrees, this will take about 30 minutes. You can test your caramel in a bowl of ice water to check the consistency. It should form a firm ball.
When the correct temperature has been reached, stir in the ale reduction and remove from heat. Pour into prepared pan(s) and top with pretzel rods. Let cool for several hours or place in fridge until firm. Remove caramel block from pan and turn pretzel-side up on a cutting board (if refrigerated, let caramel block warm up a little for easier cutting). Cut between pretzels and then into 1″ pieces. Cut wax paper into approx. 5 x 5 inch squares and wrap caramels.
NOTES: Caramels must be wrapped or they will lose their shape over time. Use silicone pans for easy removal.
you didn't even give me a chance with this one! i don't even like pretzels but i could see myself devouring those in 10 seconds flat 🙂
basically all of those beers are made around where I live! haha. hope you enjoyed them 🙂
mmmm the sweet and salty combo is deadly for me. SO ADDICTIVE!
Crazy talk… I want to make them right this instant! (Thanks for yet another amazing recipe)
These are so clever! And I am in love with Churro. great name choice.
Mmmmmm this looks so so delicious. I've had pretzels dipped in chocolate before, and this has the same salty-sweet-crunchy combination. Yummy!
Oh my god, those caramels look delicious! I want one!
I love caramels!!!! with pretzels inside…wow…what a wonderful idea!
really! no! carmel pretzals? Wow! do you think I could leave the beer out?
so glad to hear that your little pal is getting better and found a pal in your hubby.
And yes, please do a Churro post!
I will be making these soon! Caramel, pretzels, and beer?! YES, please!
These look divine! I think I'll have to make these, soon!
How do you come up with this stuff? 🙂
Hooray for Churro!
omg – I want to try these RIGHT NOW!!
Beer, pretzels, caramel… OMG, what's not to love? I'm totally bookmarking this one for a rainy day.
These are so cool! I've always loved salted caramels, so having those crunchy pretzels in 'em is even better. And with beer, too? What an inspired confection.
I love this idea and I'm not even much of a beer fan! The caramels with the one large rod in them look pretty amazing.
I could really get into these! They look and sound amazing!
The beer possibilities for this recipe…oh man.
That looks BEYOND fabulous.
Now lets take it one step further, use a beer extract in an ice cream batter and swirl the caramel in the IC, mix in the pretzles. Look out Ben & Jerry!
As with everything you make these are lovely to look at and I bet so yummy to taste. 🙂
Oh. My. God. Now THIS is a candy for foodies!
Wow. Three of my favorite things all in one. Amazing!
Made this tonight! turned out perfectly. i used pretzel "nuggets" so i didnt have to cut them but still got that big pretzel bite. sooooo good! thank you for sharing!
ohhh wow these look so good yumm!! delicious!
You had me at… Sierra Nevada! That's the favorite of my hubby anyway. He's going to love these!
As soon as I passed this on to my roommate, she ran out and bought corn syrup and heavy cream to make these. It's the first recipe she's followed that hasn't turned out hard or gritty. She used Lagunitas Maximus, which is a very hoppy beer. I really liked the dark, rich caramel flavor of the candies. Personally, I can't wait to dip these in dark chocolate. Thanks for sharing the recipe!
And Churro is an adorable name for a delightful looking pup!
Love this! You have a great site, btw!
Yum! Made these yesterday and they were fantastic. I didn't get much of the ale flavor though so if I made them again I think I might double the reduction! Of course, we have a ton now (even after gifting them 3 times!) so that may be a while. 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!
A caramel that wont stick to my teeth? Gotta love that!
Churro is adorable, but you already knew that. 😉
I adore your photos, and caramel, well i just love caramel. Cute idea with the fork!! Very practical!
oh wow, this looks fantastic. Caramel and beer…you cannot go wrong with that!!!
I've made beer and pretzel caramels, but I didn't think to reduce the beer to a syrup. Great idea! Have to try it.
OMG I can only imagine how amazing those must be!
I absolutely had to try this recipe, even though I have never made candy in my life. It turned out great! It didn't really have that "beer" flavor, but the ale gave the carmels a great complexity. Even my friend who doesn't like beer (and foolishly tasted the beer reduction, yikes) loved these. I will definitely be making these again for my home-brew friends!
These look absolutely delicious, can't wait to make them. (And Churro is an unbelievably cute name.)
These are definitely going on my holiday bake/gift list. Fantastic! I never thought one could combine three of my favorite things, but I've obviously been proven wrong!
Churro is adorable! The name is perfect. We have a pug and I just can't get enough of the breed.
You may have just cured me of my aversion to making caramels. Trouble. Major Trouble.
I can't taste the caramel and salty pretzels just from looking at your photos. Major drool.
Oops, I meant to say I CAN taste it.
They look fabulicious!!!
The caramels look amazing!
My sister raises pugs so everyone in the family has one now and they are definitely people dogs. They love everyone but they pick one person and they will follow them any where. Ours chose our oldest daughter must to chagrin of her cat which now has constant aggression toward the dog.
My fiance' and I made our first batch of these this weekend. Oh…my…word… so good! We are having them at our wedding shower for our guests and needed to do a trial run since we've never made caramels before. We used Newcastle (it's a family fave) but I really couldn't tell that there was any ale in there at all. Do you think it'd be okay if I upped the amount of the reduction slightly? Thanks for this recipe. It is delicious and very easy to follow!
Just made these as a birthday gift for the hubby and used a local Brazilian dark beer. The beer flavor is noticeable if you know it's in there, but the flavor + crunch is a real hit.
I used Blue Moon (because it is by far my favorite beer) but I let the caramel cook a little too long (whoops). Still delicious, but definitely not "soft" caramels.
When you poured the caramel into the brownie pan did you transfer it to measuring cup or something else first? I have some silicone ice cube trays that would be perfect for caramels, but I'm trying to figure out how to best get the molton hot liquid into them…thanks
Thanks for sharing. I'll be making these for hostess gifts for the holidays. A nice change from giving a bottle of wine at a Christmas party.
Does anyone know how well/long these can be stored? I wanted to make a couple batches for the holidays but was hoping to get a jumpstart and do it now before things get too hectic…
Thanks – great photos and sounds delish!
I think I would wait until the beginning of December (at least) to make these. I worry about the pretzels becoming stale. Storing the candies in an airtight container after you wrap them would help to keep them fresh. I can't speak from experience because most of our candies were gifted. The ones we kept didn't last that long!
Thanks for your comment!
these little treats look so good!