There’s nothing quite like the combination of beer and pretzels. Or beer and nuts. The bitterness of beer goes so well with salt. Reduce that bitterness to just pure, wheat-y flavour, add salt, and turn it into a caramel? Goodness gracious, please put that in my mouth. These beer and pretzel caramels are wonderfully addictive, I couldn’t stop eating them. They’re gooey and chewy, with the wonderful contrasting crunch from the pretzels. Every now and then, your tongue comes into contact with some salt from the pretzels, and the salt complements the savoury, bitterness from the beer in such a perfect way.
Now for those who aren’t huge fans of beer, don’t worry. I used a pale ale, which has a very subtle flavour unlike it’s darker stout counterparts. But it doesn’t taste like beer. It just tastes like delicious caramel, especially because the Granville Island Brewery from BC makes an English bay pale ale that has caramel malt flavour, which I thought was perfect for this recipe! This recipe is brought to you as a result of a recipe challenge from Julie (This Gal Cooks) and Carrie (Frugal Foodie Mama). This week’s challenge required that we use American craft beers (from microbreweries), but since I’m in Canada, I don’t have access to American craft beers.
Luckily for me, I asked if I could substitute a Canadian craft beer and was able to showcase Granville Island Brewery’s English Bay Pale Ale. I picked up a another beer as well, called the Robson Street Hefeweizen, also by GIB. I’m excited to try it because it has fruity notes, and I love fruity beers. GIB claims to be Canada’s first microbrewery (opened in 1984), so I feel like I made a good choice in blindly picking a craft beer at the local liquor store. Because the pale ale is delicious, and I’m excited to try the hefeweizen.
They have fairly descriptive blurbs that talk about how to pair the beers as well. The yellow hefeweizen has the recommended pairing of poached eggs or weisswurst, and this pale ale recommends grilled meats like tenderloin or beef burgers. Now I’m sure these pairings would be amazing, but since I will probably not ever be drinking beer when I eat poached eggs, nor would I be eating meat anytime soon, these blurbs are a little irrelevant. But it’s still really useful to see what flavour the beer has, because you can sort of align it with whatever you’re having for dinner. Or lunch. Nothing like a midday beer.
I highly suggest cutting out your parchment paper rectangles ahead of time, because trying to cut them with sticky fingers while you simultaneously handle the caramels don’t really bode well. I’m talking from experience here, folks. Room temperature caramels make for a sticky time.
I would have loved to use clear wrappers, but unfortunately I didn’t think to buy them ahead of time. Thankfully parchment paper works perfectly, and they have kind of a rustic look to them that reminds me of a post that David Lebovitz did, showcasing Pärlans caramels. Mm. The shots that David took of them pouring the caramel? Mmmmmmm… talk about food porn.
I suggest refrigerating these caramels, because for me, they were fairly gooey at room temperature. Delicious, but doesn’t quite hold its shape as well as the Pärlans caramels do. Clearly I’m not an expert caramel maker. Although my caramel eating level is somewhere between advanced and expert. Also, if you feel like digging into my early JSA days, here’s a super old post in which I have a terrible photo of caramels. They were delicious, but that photo does NOT do them justice.
So go to your local booze store and pick yourself up some craft beers. Support your local economy. Drink a couple brewskies. Make a couple batches of beer and pretzel caramels. Let’s just hope I didn’t undo all of my fitness progress with these. Because seriously, they are addictive.
- - 15 oz Granville Island English Pale Ale (original recipe calls for 12 oz, but I only had tallboys. It's the same directions for both amounts of beer because by 235F the water content in the caramel will be the same)
- - 1 cup 35% whipping cream (or coconut milk to keep vegan)
- - 2 tbsp unsalted butter (or Earth Balance) + more for greasing the pan
- -1¼ cups dark brown sugar
- - ¼ cup light corn syrup
- - 1½ cup chopped salted pretzels
- - 64 parchment paper rectangles (2x3 inches). You can also use clear candy wrappers or wax paper.
- Pour beer into a glass and let sit until flat (about an hour).
- Grease an 8x8 pan, especially in the corners.
- Pour half the beer into a small pot and simmer over medium heat until it becomes about 2 tsp of syrup. This step will take about 15 minutes and will be the beer reduction for flavour.
- In another large pot, combine the whipping cream, butter, dark brown sugar, corn syrup, and the remaining beer over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted, and heat the mixture until it measures 235F on a candy thermometer. Occasionally use a spatula to scrape down the sides. Ensure your pot has enough room because the mixture will bubble to triple the volume at first, and will simmer back down.
- Once it reaches 235F, remove from heat and stir in the beer reduction and the pretzel bits.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared 8x8 pan, and let chill in the fridge until firm (about 1 hour).
- Cut the caramel first into 16 squares (each square 2x2), then cut each of those squares lengthwise so each caramel will be ½ inch x 2 inches. That may sound really thing but trust me, any thicker and you won't be able to wrap these caramels.
- Wrap each caramel, and you should end up with 64 caramels. Unless you eat some on the way. I think I ended up with about 55 caramels. Or 50. They're addictive =P.
- Keep in the fridge for up to a week (if they even last that long. Soooo yummy.)