Man Candy

Every year I anticipate its arrival with the zeal of a child who awaits Christmas day. It’s a nicely hopped pale ale from the Sierra Nevada® Brewing Co. called Celebration® Fresh Hop Ale. Typically released in November for the holidays, Celebration® Ale is an American IPA style beer, amber-red in color with a robust mouth feel.  The bright notes afforded from the dry-hop process during its production range from citrus to pine and under the nose, the heady aroma clearly signals hops take center stage. There are other supporting roles of course, like malty caramel, a touch of spice and a zing of yeast. The medium-bodied brew is deliciously balanced with an alcohol content that pleasantly warms the soul.
 
 
 
 
I’ve been a hophead for a long while. It was my brother, a home brewer, who first introduced me to Sierra Nevada® Pale Ale in 1992 at the Fox & Firkin Brewing Company in Newport Beach, CA. The beer was featured on a guest tap that day and it started an odyssey of microbrew and brew pub exploration for a decade or longer. The best education about beer, for me, came from visiting the small independents, talking up bartenders, servers and patrons. And I did a fair amount of reading from the publications often times free for the taking at these establishments. The setting was ideal to experience the many styles of beer and the manner in which they are crafted.
 
 
 
 
The pinnacle of my experiences, however, was my first visit the Sierra Nevada® Brewing Co. in Chico, CA. It was 1996 and in those days, the brewery conducted tours in very small groups. There were six of us that day, including the tour guide. We were guided through the premises which included fermentation, refrigeration and bottling areas with interval stops along the way for in-depth explanations. The experience had a red-carpet feel to it and the memory of it is indelible. Intimate excursions like that one are rare there today. The free 90-minute tour nowadays is immensely popular attracting throngs of visitors—as one version of the tour ends with an Educational Tasting for ages 21 and over!
 
 
The Tap Room of the Sierra Nevada® Brewing Co.
 
 
My family has visited there several times over the years. Most recently, my kids expressed favorable reviews of their meal in the Tap Room, a delightful bar and restaurant serving fare that can rival any first-rate steakhouse. It’s great when your children come of age with their developing palates, and can sit through a nice meal without being wiggly and impatient. But it’s even better (for the adults) when the food matches the quality of the beerit brings a whole new meaning to the phrase steak & ale.
 
 

 

 
Every trip to the brewery ends in the gift shop. It was there my wife & I spotted attractive packages of peanut brittle made with their pale ale—and jalapeno! I adore peanut brittle. And many of you know I’m also a chilihead. One glance to my wife and she knew I had to try it. Without hesitation, it was quickly placed among items to purchase. I found the candy to be exceptional, if not addicting. It covers the bases of sweet and savory under an umbrella of buttery spice (not overly hot, but spicy) with a note of floral hops in a confection that’s big, bold and sturdy. In short, the pairing is what I consider to be the ideal man candy.
So here we are at the end of 2012 and my anticipation of this year’s Celebration® Ale release has been met without disappointment—a beer that’s big on flavor delivering the kind of punch you expect in a winter brew. However the sweetest surprise this season is that the beer isn’t the only thing I’ll be sharing over the holidays.
 
 
 
 
PALE ALE PEANUT BRITTLE

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: Makes about 2 pounds

PALE ALE PEANUT BRITTLE

From the first taste of the candy purchased at the brewery, I knew I had to concoct a recipe for this brittle. Since I grow jalapenos, I had a few red ones on hand and mixed a little in with the green for festive appeal. If you’re a fan of beer and like a jalapeno kick, this peanut brittle is sublime. The aroma of butter, hops and peanuts as the sugar mixture boils on the stove fills the kitchen with its alluring fragrance, and then the addition of peppers takes this confection over the top!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick), plus more for baking sheets
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Celebration® Ale or Pale Ale, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon gray salt or other good quality sea salt
  • 2 1/2 cups roasted Virginia peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped jalapeno, seeded*
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda, sifted

Instructions

  • Butter one large or two medium baking sheets with a thin coat; set aside. In a heavy 3 quart saucepan begin melting the butter over medium-low heat, slightly tilting and swirling the pan to coat the sides. Add the corn syrup, sugar, pale ale and salt. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir the mixture to boiling. Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently to 280°, about 25 minutes. Add the nuts, continue cooking and stirring to 295°, about another 10-15 minutes. Add the jalapenos (they will slightly fizzle), stirring constantly to 300° Take saucepan off of heat, remove the thermometer.
  • Quickly add the vanilla stirring it in, then promptly add the baking soda stirring constantly. Immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets. Use the rounded bottom of the spoon to spread the hot mixture out to an even thickness. Cool completely. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Notes

This recipe is ideally suited for the use of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration® Ale or their classic Pale Ale as called for. However, you may use your favorite pale ale, just know the flavor of the finished product may differ than what is intended here. If you can take the heat, you may not want to completely seed the jalapenos. In the batch depicted above, I left the membranes (which also carry heat) of the chilis intact. The 2 tablespoon measurement of the peppers was a good benchmark yielding a deliciously balanced candy, but adventurous folks may want to add more.

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Comments

  1. Oh, this is so much going to show up on the table for football after Christmas dinner. It’s game food all gussied up. I love it!

  2. I make peanut brittle every holiday season but have never though to add beer. Going to make this as a treat for my husband!

  3. Brooks, love the man candy! Though I’m really not much of a candy eater, I could make this for others and enjoy a little Sierra Nevada along the way!

  4. I love the name! :) Interesting take on a brittle recipe.

  5. Haha, love the title! In this house, “I’D” be the one eating this fabulous brittle. I love that you used red and green peppers…so fun and festive :)

  6. Yep… it set. I’m heading over to Christiane’s house for that football game!!!

  7. Wow that’s a treat I would enjoy!

  8. Beer candy! Why didn’t I think of this before? Now that hoppy beers are getting more available in France, I’ll have to give something like this a shot. Thanks for a great inspiration!

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