When you think of St. Patrick's Day, do you think of chocolate covered beer and pretzel caramels? Probably not, but maybe I can change your mind. When I think of St. Patty’s day, the first thing that comes to mind is Guinness, the second thing is the green beer and green long islands they served at the Red Shed, a divey bar I frequented in college. In my search for an Irish-inspired recipe, I would be remiss not to include a nice dark beer. This caramel recipe was intriguing because it not only featured dark beer, but vanilla-sugared pretzels. I was a little nervous to try my hand at making candy. I procrastinated at making these for a few days for fear of failure. I had visions of burnt caramel in my head. Although a bit time consuming, they were actually really easy to make. I quickly learned that if you invest in a candy thermometer and follow the directions closely, you will have no trouble---and they are definitely worth the added time and effort. These beer and pretzel caramels are truly addictive. I made these even more indulgent by dipping them in dark chocolate and sprinkling them with sea salt. I love the combination of sweet and salty, gooey and crunchy. The beer adds just the slightest bitter note, which is very welcomed with all the other sweet ingredients. Chocolate Covered Irish Stout Beer and Pretzel Caramels Adapted from Taste of Home and All Recipes Ingredients For the Pretzels: 1/3 cup sugar ½ teaspoon salt 2 cups stick pretzels 1 tablespoon canola oil 1 tablespoon vanilla extract For The Caramels: 24 ounces stout beer 1 teaspoon plus 1 cup butter, divided 3 cups sugar 2/3 cup corn syrup 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided 1/3 cup water 1 teaspoon salt For the Chocolate: 1 pound dark chocolate 1 tablespoon butter 2 tablespoons flaky sea salt (optional) Directions For the Pretzels: In a small bowl, combine sugar and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the pretzels, oil and vanilla. Add sugar mixture; toss to coat. Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. foil-lined baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool completely. Coarsely chop pretzels; set aside. For the Caramels: In a large saucepan, bring beer to a boil; cook until reduced to 2/3 cup. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, line a 9-in. square pan with foil; grease the foil with 1 teaspoon butter and set aside. In a large pot, combine the sugar, corn syrup, 2/3 cup cream, water, salt and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 238°, about 20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine reduced beer and remaining cream; slowly stir into sugar mixture. Using a pastry brush dipped in cold water, wash down the sides of the pan to eliminate sugar crystals. Cook stirring constantly until a candy thermometer reads 245° (firm-ball stage), about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour into prepared pan (do not scrape saucepan); sprinkle with candied pretzels and push the pretzels down into the caramel. Let stand until firm, about 5 hours or overnight. Before cutting, place caramel in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up to make cutting easier. Using foil, lift candy out of the pan. Discard foil; cut candy into 1-in. squares using a sharp knife. (Dipping it in water between cuts helps to avoid sticking). Melt chocolate with 1 tablespoon butter in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl in the microwave. Stir until smooth. (If using a microwave, cook for 30 seconds at a time and stir each time. It took about 1 minute and 30 seconds in my microwave). One at a time, place the squares into the chocolate with a fork. Roll around until covered, remove and add to a piece of wax paper, sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Once all squares are covered, place in the refrigerator to chill until set, about 10 minutes. They can be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature. What recipes will you make this St. Patrick's Day? I'd love to hear about them; please share them with me!