Raison D'Être - Dogfish Head Brewery

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Raison D'ÊtreRaison D'Être

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1,771 Reviews

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Reviews: 1,771
Hads: 4,252
Avg: 3.66
pDev: 23.22%
Wants: 102
Gots: 435 | FT: 6
Brewed by:
Dogfish Head Brewery visit their website
Delaware, United States

Style | ABV
Belgian Strong Dark Ale |  8.00% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 08-09-2001

A deep mahogany, Belgian-style brown ale brewed with beet sugar, raisins and Belgian-style yeast.

25 IBU
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 1,771 | Hads: 4,252
Photo of Jeffreysan
4.51/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Dogfish Head’s Raison D’ Être

12 oz bottle poured into a goblet

Appearance: Deep brown/mahogany with a nice 1 to 1½ finger cream/oatmeal colored head, that faded to a thin crown around the edge of the glass. Great lacing.

Smell: Nice carbonation to awaken the aromas of dark bread, dried fruit (raisins/prunes)

Taste: Fantastic! Lots of bready toasted malt up front, followed by some toffee and candied sugar-like sweetness, as well as the dried stone fruit, such as raisns, prunes, apricots. Finally, at the finish, there’s just a touch of hoppy bitterness to balance out all the fruit and sweetness. Absolutely delicious beer!

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied to almost chewy and very, very smooth, as there is practically no carbonation what-so-ever. With an ABV of 8%, I’m surprise at how well masked the alcohol is.

Overall: Raison D’Être is one of my favorite beers from Dogfish Head. Actually, it’s one of my favorite beers period. It’s a great beer and an excellent American example of one of my favorite beer styles, the Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Highly recommended!

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Photo of BeerandWhiskeyHQ
4.51/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Wonderfully dark and has a deep copper color. The quickly dissipating head was light tan in color. The color does remind me of a dark rich mahogany which is what Dogfish referred to this ale as.

S: It smells sugary and sweet with a strong scent of raisins or grapes. There is a presence of oak and malt and slightly bitter overall. The presence of alcohol makes itself known.

T: The taste is sugary and sweet much like it smells, there is an underlying taste threaded throughout the complexity of the beer that might be coming from the beet sugars. I get a spice note in there as well. The scent and smell translates nicely to the taste. To me I get more of a grape taste than raisins (yes I realize the correlation between grapes and raisins), but it has the taste of a lot of other Dogfish beers that specifically mention that grapes were included in their ingredient bill.

O: I really enjoy this beer, but isn’t something I see myself enjoying on a very regular basis, it is rich, complex and very enjoyable which makes me want to keep it for an “every once in a while” sort of occasion. This is a beer that is a must try for sure.


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Photo of NODAK
4.52/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Aroma is of sweet malts...dark fruits certainly...since the beer is made with raisons, it's no surprise. Even though the ABV isn't terribly high, some alcohol shows through as well.

Taste is of some definite dark fruit in the start...raisons....pretty sweet as a whole. From there, the taste fades into a bit of yeastiness...a very nice brown sugar taste from the Belgian beet sugar. Just a small bitterness at the end as well.

I really, really like this beer. Very delicious and well rounded. The BSDA category can be pretty varied at times, and this ranks among the most drinkable there is. Wonderfully fruity and sweet without being cloying.

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Photo of doppelmeup
4.52/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured a dark tea color into a tulip glass. Not much of a head, and only minimal lacing. It was not a great looking beer, especially compared to other Belgian-style ales.

Aroma was milder than expected. Mild fruit aromas of raisins and apricots. But it didn't smell bad, just very mild.

Then I tasted this beer. It was one of the best tasting beers I've had. Nicely balanced brew with maltiness, hints of chocolate, some slight alcoholic bitterness. The high ABV was completely hidden. I'd never guess this was an 8%'er. As the beer warms, the yeastiness begins to come through and I don't like it as much. So, my recommendation is to drink this cold and don't let it sit around.

Nice mouthfeel with a slightly thick aftertaste, leaving a flavor of cocoa on the palate. A dry finish.

Incredibly drinkable brew. I could easily down several of these in a sitting. It goes down very easily. I'd give it a 5 except it is quite strong.

Highly recommended brew.

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Photo of jpro
4.52/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle from Total Wine Park Rd in Charlotte. Poured into a DFH snifter...

A: Pours a bright, mahogany-amber with an off-white, one-finger head; no lace.

S: Very rich, sweet aroma; plums; molasses; brown sugar; nutmeg; very nice.

T: Dark, sweet bread; raisin / plum notes; candi sugar; delicious and complex... would make for a great Thanksgiving beer.

M: Full mouthfeel; high carbonation; velvety and a touch tingly.

O: A deliciously complex ale; a Dogfish Head classic.

*from notes (6-11-12)

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Photo of vicks22
4.52/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

a- ruby like in color thin head not long lasting still looks great

s- smells sweet and malty expected the california raisins to pop out.

t- dried fruits sugar and hops with a slight cinnamon twist its just a great combination that grows with each taste

m- feels a little lighter than i thought it would not watery though pure flavor good amount of hops

d- its very drinkable something i could pour into glass everyday very happy i came across this one

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Photo of beerguy101
4.53/5  rDev +23.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Deep Brown color, small head. " A deep mahogany ale, brewed with Belgian beet sugars, green raisins and a sense of purpose..". Full-bodied Belgian style ale. Deep, intense malt flavors. Not too hoppy. Belgian sugars are very evident. Complex flavor. Mellowing taste. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is malty. Some alcohol bite. Interesting beer. Well deserved of its notoriety.

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Photo of pmcadamis
4.55/5  rDev +24.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Had this at Brewhaus downtown Springfield.

A - Caramel copper "tawny port" colored brew with a huge, thick, and tight three finger head of brownish red foam. Purple and red tint in the light. Lots of sticky lace is left on the glass.

S - Candy sugar, caramel, toffee, dates, prunes, spices, and yeast. Dark molasses-drenched dark fruit. More dates than raisins in the nose.

T - Toffee, wood, caramel, and dates. Also hints of baked apple and leafy hops balance things out. Really nice and rich port/brandy flavors make this a slow sipper to be enjoyed at room temp in a snifter. A little too sweet, but thats only a minor complaint. This is a very tasty Belgian style brew with a unique flavor.

M - Tight, firm, and very full bodied. Low carbonation and a bit of alcohol warmth make this almost spirit-like. I can feel the sugar coating my mouth, but the hops and alcohol sting keep this from getting unbalanced.

D - Pretty damn drinkable for such a big beer. A little to sweet and strong to have more than one, but I would get this again if I see it! Went perfectly with a handful of cashews.

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Photo of FlemingVSKing
4.55/5  rDev +24.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Simply a perfect blend of a deep rich ale with a brilliant lighter background of unique fruit tones.

Upon first tasting it, I immediately thought it was the best new brew that I have tried in months. I would gladly buy cases of this stuff. It's really good.

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Photo of SkullFission
4.56/5  rDev +24.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, this is my favorite of Dogfish Head's offerings, having tried almost all of the beers they offer regularly, and a few limited ones.

The smell is very indicative of the green raisins used in the brewing process, though it is a little light. Not a very strong smell, but a good one nonetheless.

The taste is absolutely wondrous; the green raisin character comes through flawlessly, and the malts balance perfectly with it. I do, however, harbor a suspicion that this brew would be better off bottle-conditioned, as I always seem to enjoy it more after a particularly yeasty beer (In this case, after a Koningshoeven Quadrupel, with pita chips to cleanse the palate).

The mouthfeel is great, very smooth. The carbonation is there and perceptible, but it is not aggressive and has virtually no bite to it.

This beer is very, very drinkable for an 8% ABV brew. Only the malt flavor reminds me that I am drinking a beer. I could drink these all night if I were so inclined, or had the money. I tend to finish off a 6-pack without blinking an eye, and end up fairly drunk afterwards (This review is being written during my first, so no worries of it being tainted by inebriation).

All in all, this beer is great just for taste, or to get intoxicated as hell. A "reason to be" indeed.

EDIT: It is also worthy of mention that I had poured this into a crystal goblet prior to consumption, and did not drink it directly from the bottle.

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Photo of Alewife
4.57/5  rDev +24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Turned on to this one by Bierman9 (not a complete fool, he!!) Its dark copper color and fine head are good, and things get better from there. Sweet malty, fruity nose, and verrry good body and mouthfeel. The taste is of currants, raisins, malty sweetness and candy sugar....mmmmmm!! Easy to drink plenty o' these, especially on tap!

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Photo of redneckchugger
4.57/5  rDev +24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz pour into my brand new duvel tulip
poured a dark brown witha tawny head about two fingers high
smells of brown sugar, and raisins
taste is malt, yeast, brown sugar and raisens, like a mouthfull of raisins. A totally unique taste for me, quite good.
Mouthfell is smooth, slight alcohol burn, but smooth a really rich.
drinkable, but made for sipping.
Overall a great beer, i don't feel it s a true belgian style beer as they claim, but thatsnat really a big deal to me. Excellent beer.

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Photo of Hefe
4.57/5  rDev +24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tasted on 3/24/04 at R.F.D.

Appearance: Golden/bronze colour with an off white head that slips away to some sticky lacing.

Smell: Very aromatic with notes of spice, plum, toffee, malt, apricot.

Taste: Fruity esters abound, plum-apricot-peach, with a bit of spice, malt and golden raisin. The initial and mid-palate are relatively sweet though the finish is lasting and on the dryer side.

Mouthfeel: Full and Smooth.

Drinkability: Too drinkable, given the 8.0% abv.

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Photo of Jdiddy
4.58/5  rDev +25.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I was really blown away by this. I guess it is considered a Belgian Ale, although it does not taste much like Chimay or the others. I actually like this a bit better than the usual Belgians. It is very full, somewhat heavy, and awesome all around! The smell is that of raisins and a touch of alcohol (but not overpowering). The taste is bold and fruitlike (raisins, currants). The alcohol comes through in the taste but in all the right places. Exceptional beer!!!

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Photo of PatriotsRule
4.59/5  rDev +25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Delicious dogfish head, as always quite a yum
A: Amber-brown with a nice off-white head. Great head retention and decent lacing
S: Roasted caramel, malts and hops. Very refreshing sniff
T: The caramel is there and the beer is well balanced
M: A bit filling, but it is quite delectably smooth. The 8% abv is masterfully masked.
O: I can see why the name for this is, in French, Reason for Being. I will be for this right 'er!

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Photo of jcalabre
4.6/5  rDev +25.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Originally sampled 28 September 2002. Loved it. Beautiful mahogany color w/ a unique taste that I can't quite place. I'm sure glad that I can now get this locally!! In a follow on tasting, I served it in a stemmed, tulip shaped glass rather than a pint glass. Wow, it improved the nose tremendously (OK, I don't have a great sense of smell). Got definite whiffs of baking chocolate w/ a hint of cinnamon. The upfront taste was slightly sweet w/ a smooth finish.

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Photo of littlebibs
4.6/5  rDev +25.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

a nice red brown concoction with a slight head from a brewery
that I'm looking at more and more for their quality and imagination.
Raison D'etere is a rare exception ale, tastey, fruity, slightly metallic and bready. Not for everybodies tastes but if you like to
seek out different ale start here! This crisp and most unusal beer has an
alcohol content that will sneak up on you but it doesn't get in
the way of how delicious and truly unique the taste is. More
surprises from the great beer brewers at Dogfish.

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Photo of proc
4.6/5  rDev +25.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

An incredible beer. Pours out to a darker than expected amber with a slight head. Smell is that of fruit. The taste is fantastic. Fruit and licorice seem prevelant and the alcohol is hidden quite well. As it warms up, it gets better.

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Photo of drperm
4.62/5  rDev +26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

*This is a review of a (12-month) cellar-aged bottle*

12 oz bottle, Christmas gift in 2008. Tasted and reviewed on 5 Jan, 2010. Poured into my footed Brooklyn glass.

A: Handsome cloudy mahogany-cherry-copper color, 1 cm antique-white head that reduces to a thin lacing. Lots of rising bubbles.

S: Intoxicating madeira/sherry notes. Apricot, date, raisin, shortbread, plum, ginger.

T: Wow! There's a veritable symphony of flavors right off the bat. Raisin, almond, currant, mellow roasted malt, molasses, ginger, apricot, and a slight anise note at the end.

P: Gloriously sticky-spritzy with a tad of a vinous coating-quality.

D: Always cellar this beer! During its sojourn in the cellar, it has clouded a bit, but the most prominent feature is the condensing and accentuating of the nose and flavour: I'm reminded of a sherry, port, or (especially) madeira. The raisin quality has come much more to the forefront, whilst the overall profile is smoother and gentler than in the fresh bottle.

It's perfect with my vegetable-mushroom stir-fry with peanut sauce. It harmonizes perfectly with the toasted sesame oil. It would likewise be a winner with lots of desserts: English gingerbread, creme brulee, or praline ice cream.

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Photo of granite
4.63/5  rDev +26.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

12oz bottle into pint glass.

A---It poured copper with a thin white head.

S---Phenolics, dark candy rocks and fruit. I'm in beer heaven.

T---Brown sugar and clove upfront. It finished with a maple flavor.

M---Medium-full bodied.

D---It was a very tasty offering. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

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Photo of frankbro
4.63/5  rDev +26.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Exceptional Belgian style ale. I prefer a lot more hops, but this is the style. They use Belgian beet sugar and green raisins (a take off on the French for "reason to be") to raise the ABV to a respectable 8, without a loss of apparent malt intensity.(Unlike AB's rice syrups, that turn Bud into crap.) A beautiful reddish-gold color in the glass, tiny bubbles, but nice carbonation. A must when company comes, if you can part with it. A bargain at $8.99/6pk. Not really my style, but there's a case in my cellar. Excellent!

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Photo of scot_chale
4.63/5  rDev +26.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

bottled on 2/13/13, drank on 3/26/13, poured from a bottle into a snifter

A- one finger of bubbly off-white head. deep dark blood red body with adctive carbonation and beautiful clarity.

S- dark fruit and blunt malt cover the nose completely. slight yeast bi-product hidden underneath. mildly pungent.

T- the malt comes through with a sweetness and dark fruitiness that's very pleasant. faint bitter hop character but it's a balancing act. it's dancing around being sour but not quite there. very pleasant.

M- very dry, carbonation plays a big role in that. medium-to-light bodied. not too bitter, not really sour, just balanced out.

O- First beer from Dogfish. I must say I'm very impressed. It's very complex, yet very drinkable. The alcohol is hidden very well. Everything from the look to the taste has me happy. The only thing keeping me from giving it a 5 is what I read about this style and the fact that I've never had one in this category before.

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Photo of dalherring
4.65/5  rDev +27%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I have had this both on tap and from a bottle, and it far better on tap. It has a rich amber color with a creamy head. You can smell the fruity aroma which is like unto the Corsendonk Abbey Brown Ale and the Chimay Rouge. The alcohol content is high, which can be tasted and felt immediately, but this brew will disarm you with its remarkable smoothness.

I am a huge fan of Dogfish for its fine microbrews, and I dare say that the Raison D'etre is its capstone. I love it's sweet, smooth aftertaste, and regard drinking it on tap as one of my favorites. It is hard to find in bottles, much less on tap. So if you do see it on a menu or in a cooler, indulge yourself.

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Photo of John
4.66/5  rDev +27.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Hugely complex as indicated by the other comments. Obvious alcohol taste and aroma. Think of dark raisin bread topped with caramelized brown sugar, add a hint of chocolate, liquify, enjoy.

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Photo of mempath
4.67/5  rDev +27.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

finally got a bottle of this after having a sample in a plastic cup at the DFH brewery itself (review somewhere here....from april or so 2009?)...

one of the FEW times i disagree with the BROS (!), but i see those tastings were from 2002 or so...i gave the healthy, draft sampling a strong B+ but this bottle version certainly rocks and i am amazed it is so dismissed here as a simple B (at this point).

pours a 'mahogany' but i see a brighter apricot/bourbon appearance with a healthy head that subsides moderately, with minimal lacing and a settled head that isn't flimsy.

smell is quite similar to the Midas Touch (the grape/raisan connection?), sweet, alcohol densities. something ancient here.

simply an exceptional taste compared to last time i had this on draft in a plastic cup. perhaps the vessel makes all the difference. i get fermented raisans and not sure what the belgian beet sugars are up to, but they add something tremendous i am sure. sweet tanginess, alcohol heft (yeah, not hidden at all, but so what....it's part of the profile). as with the MT, the viscosity is perfect, no massive carbonation needed making up for a perfect, silky thick mouthfeel.

at 8% abv, not one to session, but as an introductory sort of 'extreme' ale for adventurous novices, go for it. this will become for me the less expensive version of my favored MTouch...it's rich, thick, a treat, a dessert, it's breakfast.

DOGFISH HEAD! don't let the fact that many can't untangle the mystery and pleasure of this brew make you discontinue it anytime soon. or at all!

i recommend anyone try this. give it time. and focus. not just another brew to slog down and dis...as a hophead, this is far from my favorite style. but it is brews like this that got me back to appreciating (once again) other styles.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Brewery
83 out of 100 based on 1,771 ratings.