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Beer and Pretzel Soft Caramel Candies

Beer and Pretzel Caramels

Pretzels have been a snacking companion to cold beers for ages. Combining them into a candy? Absolutely, without-a-doubt, genius. Caramel is made with one bottle of beer, part of which is added directly into the caramel and the other part reduced down to a concentrated teaspoon that takes the place of something like vanilla extract. The caramel is cooked to the firm ball stage, which keeps it softer and chewier after setting so it won’t pull your teeth out. The caramel is topped with pretzel rods and once set, cut into little bite-size pieces. These are full of amazing complementary flavors and textures. Soft caramel and crunchy pretzels… sweet caramel and salty pretzels… And full disclosure here – these are tremendously addicting. Eating piece after piece without realizing that you have downed at least five is entirely possible, and very likely. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Beer and Pretzel Caramels

This was actually my very first time making caramel. I was a tad bit nervous but so excited that it came out exactly the way it was supposed to! I had my trusty candy thermometer attached to my pot and just made sure I kept a close eye for when it hit the “firm ball” line. I think that these are great candies to make for the holidays for all of the men on your Christmas list. It’s a manly kind of candy, and these would be perfect in a little festive bag or tin as a stocking stuffer or a homemade present. The caramels got a big thumbs up from my Chief Culinary Consultant and his brother, so they are officially man-approved!

Advisories:

- Please be very careful when pouring the caramel into your pan! It feels like molten lava if it hits your skin. I got splashed on two fingers and the caramel immediately stuck to, and burned, both fingers. Nothing major, but it sure did hurt for awhile, so be careful!

- Make sure you heed the recipe note instructing you to wrap the caramels as soon as you cut them or they will lose their shape. If you decide to set aside the really perfect-looking ones for pictures but figure you’ll finish wrapping the others and do a few other odds and ends first, this is what they’ll end up looking like after a number of hours have passed (they really were perfect!!):

Beer and Pretzel Caramels - Melted

One year ago: Lemon Burst Cookies
Two years ago: Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake
Three years ago: Hearty Beef Stew

Ale and Pretzel Soft Caramels

Yield: About 100 pieces

Prep Time: About 20 minutes

Cook Time: About 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

1 12-oz. bottle of ale, divided (I used a local pilsner)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
About 15 pretzel rods

Wax paper, for wrapping

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of the ale to a simmer and cooked until reduced and syrupy, about 20 minutes. This will yield about 1 teaspoon of concentrated ale flavoring. Set aside.

Beer and Pretzel Caramels - Ale Reduction

2. Butter a 9x13-inch baking pan or two 9x9-inch pans. Combine the remaining beer, both sugars, the butter, heavy cream and corn syrup in a heavy 4 or 5 quart pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. The butter will melt and the mixture will begin to boil.

Beer and Pretzel Caramels - The caramel mixture boiling

3. Continue to cook until a candy thermometer reaches 244 degrees F (firm ball stage). When the correct temperature has been reached stir in the ale reduction and remove from the heat. Pour into the prepared pan(s) and top with the pretzel rods.

Beer and Pretzel Caramels - In the pan

Let cool for several hours or place in the refrigerator until firm. (If refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.) Remove the caramel block from the pan and place pretzel-side up on a cutting board. Cut wax paper into 5x5-inch squares and wrap caramels.

Note: Caramels must be wrapped or they will lose their shape (see example above).

(Recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes)

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70 Responses to “Beer and Pretzel Soft Caramel Candies”

  1. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit on October 11, 2010 at 2:03 am

    That sweet and salty combination is always a winner. These look like they would be dangerously addictive!

    Reply

  2. the blissful baker on October 11, 2010 at 2:12 am

    your caramels turned out great! i bet they are super tasty :) they would make a great gift!

    Reply

  3. LimeCake on October 11, 2010 at 5:22 am

    oh yum. i’ve never had beer candy before. this looks delicious!

    Reply

  4. Katrina on October 11, 2010 at 7:24 am

    These look sooo amazing! I love pretzels and candy. Mmmm,

    Reply

  5. Lauren at KeepItSweet on October 11, 2010 at 7:53 am

    it’s official, buying a candy thermometer yesterday was a very good move

    Reply

  6. Amalia on October 11, 2010 at 7:55 am

    I made caramels once but they were too ugly to take pictures of…delicious anyway! We don’t have pretzels here but I guess I can use some type of cracker…I love the idea though! Genius!

    -Amalia

    http://buttersweetmelody.wordpress.com/

    Reply

  7. amanda @ fake ginger on October 11, 2010 at 7:58 am

    So fun! I want to make them right now but I threw my candy thermometer out in a fit of rage awhile ago. :( I guess I’ll be going to the store later!

    Reply

  8. DessertForTwo on October 11, 2010 at 9:30 am

    What a great Christmas gift idea!

    Reply

  9. Susan on October 11, 2010 at 10:59 am

    These look so good – and have given me such an idea. Thanks!!

    Reply

  10. Jennifer on October 11, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Are you on a mission to grow my behind? Because I really don’t need any help. I foudn your blog via twitter, made the pumpkin whoopie pies and made them yesterday and now I can call myself a brown eyed baker addict. Is there some kind of group for that? I feel like I know you as I’m a transplanted ‘burgher out in Oklahoma. And ALL my Pittsburgh pals call them whoopie pies. None of that gob nonsense. Wonder why the difference. At any rate, trying these soon. They will probably be faculty gifts at Christmas. Lovely and delish.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 11th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

      Aw, haha! Great to have another ‘Burgher around these parts, welcome!

      Reply

  11. Alan Beggerow on October 11, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Quite a different idea, beer and pretzel candy!

    You’ve got a great blog. I’ll be back to read more of your great sounding recipes!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 11th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

      Thanks Alan, I hope you enjoy finding more recipes!

      Reply

  12. Amber on October 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Michelle, these look sooooo delicious. I’ve never tried making candy before, but when I showed this post to my hubs, he was like “I’m going to Michael’s for a candy thermometer for you – back in a while!” LOL! Can’t wait to nom these.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 11th, 2010 at 8:29 pm

      Wow, massive brownie points for hubby! Way to go!

      Reply

  13. Tracy on October 11, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    These are so fun and I love that they come “man-approved,” haha. The one time I tried caramel it didn’t come out so well, so I’ll definitely have to give it another go!

    Reply

  14. RavieNomNoms on October 11, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Love the salty and sweet combo! Looks great!

    Reply

  15. Nancy@acommunaltable on October 11, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Excellent tutorial!!!! I love the flavor combination of the ale, caramel and pretzels and can definitely understand the “man” appeal – will definitely be giving this a try for my crew!

    Reply

  16. Jen @ How To: Simplify on October 11, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I love this recipe! Pretzels are my favorite when it comes to snacking…adding caramel to the mix? I’m sold!

    Reply

  17. Mary Lynn on October 11, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Michelle, someone just brought a bottle of Duquesne Pilsener beer in to work today for me to take home to try. Must be an omen. Tonight I’ll be making caramels.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 11th, 2010 at 8:30 pm

      Yay Duquesne pilsner! It certainly is a sign; take a swig first before you make these – would love to know what you think of the beer. My boyfriend and I really like it – just bought a 2nd case last week. Enjoy the candy!

      Reply

  18. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle on October 11, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I can only imagine how addictive…what’s not to love about salty, sweet, chewy AND crunchy…and I’m not talking a new group of elves!

    Sort of in the same vein…and I know you love stuff for football; I make pretzel rods wrapped in bacon, covered with brown sugar and some some hot pepper and then baked til crisp…another bet you can’t eat just one. Hope you don’t mind a link cause you would love these!

    http://vinolucistyle.com/2009/06/bacon-wrapped-pretzels-2/

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 11th, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      Those pretzels sound amazing Barb! But that link says “page not found” :( Do you have an updated one by any chance? Would love to save it!

      Reply

  19. Michelle on October 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    WOW…WOW…WOW and so fun! I might give these a try! I dearly love making candy but not many in my house will eat it! But with pretzels, that’s another story!

    Reply

  20. foodlvr on October 11, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    These sound amazing but I don’t think I would have the patience to make the caramel. All the times I have tried have been disastrous. I probably would eat a whole pile of these though. I love the combination of salty and sweet. You are making me hungry for a good snack!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 11th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

      Aw, you should give it another try! This was my first time making it and it seemed pretty foolproof.

      Reply

  21. Maria on October 11, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    What a creative candy! Nice work!

    Reply

  22. Joy on October 11, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    That is very cool.

    Reply

  23. Belinda @zomppa on October 11, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    That’s one of the most original caramels I’ve ever seen. Thanks!

    Reply

  24. Cookin' Canuck on October 11, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    What a fun treat! This is a great way to combine salty and sweet. These would be the perfect snack at a football party – after all, what’s better than beer and pretzels while watching sports?

    Reply

  25. Shelly (cookies and cups) on October 11, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Oh my goodness! I could eat the whole batch! I am a little scared of the candy thermometer though…looks like I need to get over it!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 11th, 2010 at 8:33 pm

      No need to be scared! Just clip it on and wait for it to hit the right temperature, then voila! Caramel! :)

      Reply

  26. Heather I. on October 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    That is one of the most creative combos I have come across. They look and sound amazing. What a novel idea!

    Reply

  27. marla {family fresh cooking} on October 11, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    These are genius, but you all ready knew that right?? The sweet salty, gooey, crunchy thing is amazing. Addictive I am sure :)

    Reply

  28. Tina from PA on October 11, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Oh my ,I really have to try these ! I’ve been wanting to make caramels for some time now ,but leave it to you to mix sweet and salty, my favorite !Now I got to dip my toe into the caramel making pond! Thanks for sharing another great recipe !

    Reply

  29. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction on October 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Oh my goodness. These look beyond incredible. HAVE to try them!

    Reply

  30. Jenny Flake on October 11, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Looks so good! What great little gifts these would be!

    Reply

  31. maggy@threemanycooks on October 12, 2010 at 8:20 am

    These look seriously delicious – love the salty/sweet things!

    Reply

  32. Ali @ Three Baking Sheets on October 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Awesome, awesome, awesome. I’m dying to try this out with different styles of beer. Some dark Belgian beers are brewed with candied sugar and have a distinct caramel-y character…could be a great complement to the candy.

    Nyum.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 18th, 2010 at 9:47 pm

      Oooh love the idea of dark Belgian beers!

      Reply

  33. cookienurse on October 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I thought it was a twix bar at first…come to think of it , dipping these in chocolate would be super! Great post!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 18th, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      Excellent idea! Chocolate makes everything better, right?

      Reply

  34. Rachèle @ a.k.a. jolie on October 12, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I just came across this blog today, and I have to say I’m hooked! The product and cookbook reviews, the ‘best ofs’ and, of course, all of the amazing recipe! I’ll be checking back often!

    R.
    akajolie.blogspot.com

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 18th, 2010 at 9:50 pm

      Hi Rachele, welcome to the site! So glad you are liking it, hope you visit often!

      Reply

  35. leslie on October 13, 2010 at 11:32 am

    It would be in my best interest NOT to show these to my husband!!!! yum

    Reply

  36. bridget {bake at 350} on October 13, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Oh. My. STARS. Caramel, pretzels, beer? Let’s dip them in chocolate and call them World’s Perfect Food!

    Reply

  37. Ann on October 16, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I can’t wait to try these! My son is a brewer without a sweet tooth but I think he might like these! I have made caramels before but in my experience when wrapped in waxed paper, they stick unmercifully. Was your experience different? Any suggestions? Thanks – I am really enjoying reading your blog!
    Ann

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 18th, 2010 at 9:52 pm

      Hi Ann, I noticed that a couple of mine stuck ever so slightly, nothing major and no wax paper stuck to the candy. I just used regular grocery store wax paper. Maybe there’s a non-stick wax paper out there or a specialty candy wrapping paper? I don’t really ever make candy so I’m not familiar, but I’ll do some poking around…

      Reply

      • Ann on October 18th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

        Thanks for your response, Michelle. Maybe it was the particular recipe I was using. I’ll try these with regular waxed paper and see how it goes.

        Reply

        • Michelle on October 18th, 2010 at 11:07 pm

          You’re welcome! Let me know how it goes!

          Reply

  38. Barbara on October 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Question: is the caramel supposed to wrap around the pretzel? All the pictures make it look like the pretzel is sitting on top. How big to you cut the caramels when you remove the whole block from the pan? Thanks a lot! I am looking forward to trying this!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 18th, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      Hi Barbara, The pretzels will sink into the caramel just a tad when you place them on top of the hot caramel, so no the caramel will not wrap around the pretzels. When I turned the block of caramel out, I cut between each pretzel rod, and then cut each of those “strips” into 1-inch pieces.

      Reply

      • Barbara on October 20th, 2010 at 11:08 pm

        Thanks. I am making the salted caramel brownies as we speak. Every recipe on here looks great!

        Reply

        • Michelle on October 24th, 2010 at 6:42 pm

          Aw, thank you! Hope you liked the brownies!

          Reply

  39. Jaime on October 19, 2010 at 7:17 am

    what an interesting candy recipe! i love caramel :)

    Reply

  40. Erin on October 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    OMG!!! I just wanted to share my experience making these last weekend! I LOVE to bake but have always been too scared to make caramel. I saw this recipe and knew it was the one to try, so I whipped out my candy thermometer (which until now has only been used to measure water temp for proofing yeast :)) and a Dunkelweizen beer. It took me a while to get the mixture up to temp, but once I did, it was smooth sailing… I bought the pretzel nuggets instead of rods and, for experimentation purposes, decided to roughly chopped 2-3 cups worth. Once I poured the caramel into the pan, I placed a couple rows of “nuggets” on top, and sprinkled the chopped pretzel crumbs over the rest of the pan. Once cooled and cut, I wrapped some in waxed paper and some in hamburger patty paper (pre-cut!!!). I took some to my work, some to a party, and sent some with my husband to work… The concensus: everyone preferred the texture of the crushed pretzels, the caramels didn’t stick to either the waxed paper OR the patty paper (a nice plus since they are pre-cut and I’m a busy girl!), and EVERYONE told me they were fabulous! Several people asked for the recipe, and three people told me they would pay me to make them some, and I only bake as a hobby and not for a living :D This is truly a FABULOUS recipe and one that I will make more often (especially since it’s easy!). I hope my ridiculously long comment helps someone if they decide to make these – it’s WELL WORTH the time!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 30th, 2010 at 7:12 pm

      Hi Erin, Thanks so much for sharing your tip on the crushed pretzels! I will definitely try that next time! And I MUST get some of those pre-cut hamburger patty papers!

      Reply

  41. Ann on October 27, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Hi Erin,
    THANKS for all of the suggestions! Great trying the nuggets and the crushed pretzels. I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the ideas about the hamburger papers, where do you buy those? I am so glad to hear that the caramels didn’t stick to the waxed paper. And I’d like to try the pre-cut burger papers. I’m all for saving time! I have some pre-cut candy papers that I bought so I could try them, too.

    One tip I have for anyone out there – I test my candy thermometer every time before I use it. I was making candy one year and it kept burning – I finally figured out that my candy thermometer was not measuring correctly. It’s ok if it’s off a degree or two – you don’t need to run out an buy another one, but you do have to adjust your thinking to what temp you are watching for. Then buy a new one when you have time.

    Reply

    • Erin on October 27th, 2010 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Ann,
      To be honest, my husband teaches math and he snagged me a few sheets of patty paper for me to try (they use them in geometry class). I did find some recently on Amazon.com, but I’ve never looked in a B&M store. I think it was $13 for 1000 sheets or something like that. Best of luck!!! They are seriously addictingly delicious…

      Reply

  42. Patricia Miller on December 13, 2011 at 8:02 am

    I made these but used dark brown sugar instead of light (Food Network Magazine had a recipe in their latest issue that is almost exactly the same as this except it uses dark brown sugar – so I decided to try it that way). They are SO good! The sweet and salty combo is heavenly. And the dark brown sugar really gives it a richness and goes so well with the beer!

    Reply

  43. Meghan on February 29, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Hi Michelle,

    Would it be possible to feature your receipe on CraftBeer.com? One of our main goals is to elevate the status of craft beer and help to bring it back to the dinner table through parings and as an ingredient in food.

    I would make a post similar to this one: http://www.craftbeer.com/pages/beer-and-food/recipes/recipes-list/show?title=beer-bread-grilled-cheese-sandwich and include your photo/bio/link to your blog.

    Please let me know.

    Reply

    • Michelle on February 29th, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      Hi Meghan, Sure, thanks for checking with me. Let me know if you need anything for the photo/bio/etc.

      Reply

  44. Meghan on February 29, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Wow, I just totally spaced…you were nice enough to let us use your Beer Waffles recipe last year. Just let me know what you think about the caramels, they look AMAZING!

    Meghan

    Reply

  45. Nay on May 22, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I’m so confused about the crushed pretzel thing and hamburger papers. if you lay the carmel on a pan, how are you then rolling into the other papers? would you cool the caramel on a sheet, then CUT? THEN wrap individually?

    Also, how do these stand up to room temp in the papers? I was thinking of shipping, but if they will melt at room temp, that may not be a good idea.

    Love your recipes by the way. i’m not even a “baker” or “sweets” person. But I love making things in the kitchen for other people.

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 23rd, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Hi Nay, The caramel is poured into a baking pan to set. When you pour it in you put the pretzels on top and they will adhere to the caramel as it cools. You set the pan aside until the caramel is set (it will form one solid block). You then cut it into bite-size pieces and wrap each one individually as a candy. If you wrap them as soon as you cut them, they will hold their shape at room temperature.

      Reply

  46. Elisabeth Graff on December 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Michelle,
    I’ve been really enjoying your site! So many great tips for candymaking…here’s a tip I learned from caramel wrapping – use parchment paper! It doesn’t stick to anything, and more importantly, when you twist the ends, they STAY twisted! Also makes for a pretty presentation.

    Reply

    • Michelle on December 30th, 2012 at 10:33 am

      Hi Elisabeth, Thanks so much for the tip! I’ll definitely try the parchment the next time I make candies!

      Reply

  47. Miro Ciccosanti on October 13, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Hey Mich…. long time reader/experimenter of BEB blog- first time posting.

    Ive tried a few other recipes youve posted and never had issue with the flavor. This one, however, was a bit of a puzzle for me. I followed your post to the T (though oddly my candy thermo lists the Firm Ball at 250F). Regardless, I made the extract as suggested, added it as directed. When the candy set, I didnt really taste anything. I was using a stout (Guiness) but still, I would have expected more flavor in this one. Not one to kick my backside like the college days of beer and pretz but still, a hint of flavor. I liked the recipe, no complaints on the concept but curious how to extract more flavor on this one without destroying the balance. Suggestions? Thoughts?

    Reply

  48. Melissa on April 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I’m curious… when you are bringing the caramel mixture up to temp do you mix or move it at all? I always get a gritty caramel and am wondering if you had that problem?

    Love all of your recipes!

    Reply

    • Michelle on April 16th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Hi Melissa, I stir occasionally until all of the sugar is melted, then I generally leave it alone.

      Reply

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