The best part about visiting a brewery is the opportunity to sample those special release beers that never make it into bottles. Those brews that are only made in small batches, put into casks that sometimes make it to local pubs or events but will never make it into bottles in your local distributors shelves. Like those songs your favorite band will never record but will occasionally play live if you happen to catch a show on the right night, these are beers that make you feel special for having been granted the experience. In a world where it seems everything is accessible with the right google word search, these near mythical concoctions are only available to those who happen to be in the right place at the right time.
One of my favorites is the Habanero Sculpin from Ballast point. Because of the process they use, the heat is fresh and bright. An uncooked scorch that isn’t shy. Habaneros are an extremely unpredictable ingredient, with heat levels that vary widely from pepper to pepper, making every cask of Habanero Sculpin different from the last. If you ever make it down to San Diego, stop in for a pint and count yourself among the special few.
Since I wasn’t able to get my hands on any Habanero Sculpin, I found myself fixated on this Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale. And the result was a toffee that I couldn’t stop eating. So addictive, and it only takes about 20 minutes to make. I already have plans to make and hand this out as Christmas gifts, if I can wait that long to make it again.
Chocolate Pretzel Amber Ale Toffee
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Butter (2 sticks)
1/2 Cup Amber Ale
2 Cups Pretzels, Smashed
2 Cups Dark Chocolate Chips (60%)
1/2 Cup Amber Ale
In a large pot over high heat add the sugar, butter and 1/2 cup amber ale, it will triple in volume during the cooking process so make sure to use a large pot. Stir until the mixture starts to boil. Allow to boil untouched until the mixture starts to darken and thicken at about 230 degrees. Stir continuously until it turns a very dark amber and hits 290 degrees. This process will take between 15 and 20 minutes from start to finish. pour onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat. Allow to cool.
Add the chocolate to a large bowl. Heat the beer until hot but not boiling. You can heat it on a pot on the stove or microwave it in a microwave safe bowl. If you use the microwave, know that the beer will foam up once it reaches it’s boiling point. Pour the hot beer over the chocolate chips and stir until well combined and melted.
Pour the chocolate over the toffee and smooth out in an even layer. Sprinkle the crushed pretzels over the chocolate and chill until the chocolate has set. Cut into pieces.