May 20, 2019 Last Updated 6:31 AM, Nov 9, 2017

Beer and Pretzel Caramels

Liz Gutman's Beer and Pretzel Caramels.

Liz Gutman's dessert featuring beer reduction and caramels.


Notes: The recipe can be halved; just make sure to use half the amount of the reduction you made, or just reduce 3 bottles of beer instead of 6. After crushing the pretzels, shake them gently in a mesh strainer or colander to get rid of the pretzel-dust. 

Makes about 100 1” caramels 

Beer Reduction: 

  • 6 bottles (12-oz each) beer, preferably a strong dark ale*
  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray 

*It helps to open the beer a few hours before you start the reduction. This prevents it from boiling over as the bubbles heat and expand, and therefore it requires less babysitting. However, it’s not necessary. 

1. Pour the contents of 3 of the bottles into a large stockpot, and place it over high heat. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of oil over the surface of the beer; this will help keep it from boiling over. Bring to a boil while stirring frequently to dissipate the carbonation. Once the beer is at a rolling boil, slowly add another bottle, and stirring constantly, bring to a boil again. Repeat until all the beer is in the pot.

2. Cook the beer over high heat, stirring frequently, until all the carbonation has dissipated and it’s no longer in danger of boiling over, about 20 minutes.

3. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the volume of the liquid is dramatically reduced (to about 1/2 cup) and the reduction has the consistency of real maple syrup (it will thicken to the consistency of fake-y pancake syrup as it cools). Remove the reduction from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature; then transfer it to an airtight container. It will keep in the fridge for up to 1 month. 


  • 3.5 oz/100 g unsalted butter
  • 24.7 oz/700 g heavy cream
  • 21.16 oz/600 g granulated sugar
  • 5.3 oz/150 g barley malt syrup*
  • 0.35 oz/10 g fine sea salt
  • 3.5 oz/100 g Beer Reduction (from above)
  • 5.3 oz/150 g crushed and sifted crunchy pretzels**
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt 

*Barley Malt Syrup, made from sprouted barley grains, is what bridges the gap in this recipe between the innocuous buttery flavor of the base caramels and the sharper zing of the reduced beer. It has a toasty, rich flavor that adds depth but isn’t too assertive on its own, perfectly bringing together all the other flavors. You can buy it at any natural foods market, such as Whole Foods. 

**For pretzels, you want something thick and crunchy. Snyder’s of Hanover is a good, widely available choice; the crushed pieces should be about 1/2 inch.  You definitely want to sift them before they go into the caramel, otherwise you will end up with a lot of pretzel dust ruining the lovely texture of the caramel. 

1. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a baking sheet and set it aside on a heatproof surface.

2. Combine the cream, sugar, malt syrup, fine sea salt and butter in a large stockpot. Stir a couple of times with the spatula just to make sure there aren’t any big clumps of dry sugar, and then bring to a boil over high heat without stirring.

3. Reduce the heat to medium and insert the candy thermometer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 252˚F/122˚C (hard ball stage), about 20 minutes. Watch it closely: once it reaches 240˚F/115˚C (soft ball stage), after about 15 minutes, you’ll want to stay nearby and stir it more frequently as it tends to scorch on the bottom of the pan. Remove the pot from the heat.

4. Stir in the Beer Reduction, and then stir in the pretzels. Mix very thoroughly, scraping the bottom of the pot several times to make sure everything is incorporated. 

5. Put on your oven mitts and carefully (seriously—please be careful!) pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out with the spatula, distributing the pretzel pieces as evenly as possible. Allow it to cool until it’s firm to the touch, 1 to 2 hours.

6. If necessary, run the tip of the chef’s knife around the edges of the baking sheet to loosen the caramel. Turn the caramel out onto the lined cutting board, and use the knife to cut the caramel into 1-inch squares. Wrap them in the wax twisting paper. Store the caramels in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks (make sure to let them come to room temperature before you eat them!).


Click here to read more about this and related recipes in the article "Suds ‘n’ Sweets: Tapping the Keg for Inspiration."

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