Raison D'Être | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

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Raison D'ÊtreRaison D'Être

Brewed by:
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Delaware, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
A deep mahogany, Belgian-style brown ale brewed with beet sugar, raisins and Belgian-style yeast.

We began brewing this one at our pub in 1996 (we began packaging and selling it sometime in 1998) as the answer to the question, "What beer should I enjoy with a wood-grilled steak?" Raison D'Etre fits the bill. It's as tasty and complex as a fine red wine.

In the Quick Sip Clip video, Sam talks about Raison D'Etre inside the new cellars for our 600-bbl fermentation tanks. The cellars were designed specifically to allow sterile yeast management. The system also allows us to automatically dose the yeast into the fermentation tanks. At Dogfish, we use multiple strains of yeast for our different beers, so we are acutely aware of all that can go wrong when you don't love and protect the yeast.

25 IBU

Added by BeerAdvocate on 08-09-2001

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Reviews: 1,772 | Ratings: 4,288
Photo of Maxax
5/5  rDev +36.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I absolutely LOVE this beer. It has a real different flavor to it...almost a coffee flavored beer...to me at least. Its best VERY cold...but is a very unique beer, and definitely one of my all time favorites.

I would say though...that you probably need to develope a bit of a taste for it...it doesn't usually come right out as a smash hit on the first try. But it will stick in the back of your mind...and you'll return for another one someday...and that's when you'll realized how good it is.

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Photo of baos
5/5  rDev +36.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Von den Anmerkungen.

12 oz bottle into favorite Trappist glass.

First let me just say that this was the brew that got me back into drinking craft brews. I was really into this in the early nineties and kind of got burned out and just drank either Pabst in the bottle or High Life in the bottle when i wanted more maybe i would have a Dos Equis amber. This beer took me back to where I belong.

A: Nice copper color with 3 finger tan head.

S: Scorched caramel popcorn.

T: Awesome. A sweet caramel molasses taste, then rum, then a pleasant dry finish. The high alcohol content is masked perfectly. Gives you a nice wine flush in the face.

M: A very good medium body.

D: A one

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Photo of benmiliron
4.97/5  rDev +35.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

$9.99 for a 6-pack.

Of all the US-made Belgians I've had, this is by far the best. It smells divine, like flowers, raw sugar, and alcohol-soaked fruit. Beautiful fragrance. Taste is spectacular, Belgian-like but more than unique enough for DFH. Having brewed with raisins, I can tell they're in there, but masked behind candied fruit and a nice mild hop.

Simply wonderful beer from DFH, easily a top five beer for me.

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Photo of mmthompson33
4.94/5  rDev +35%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow! This 8% alcohol beer is quite a treat. I couldn't tell it from a beer straight out of Belgium. It has so much complexity that it could be integrated into a fancy meal, yet it's cheap price and sweet taste make it an ideal beer to drink for a night of interesting conversation. A superb brew. NOTE: I just had another of these beers in March, and it was not near as good as the batch last November - too flat and sweet. There seems to be some inconsistency in their brews at Dogfishead.

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Photo of Foxxypants
4.92/5  rDev +34.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I love this beer. I mostly grabbed a 6-pack of it because It was another Dogfish Head to add to the collection, but it ended up being my current favorite of their lineup.

A: Nothing too special. Dark amber/brown in color, decent head, looks nice in a pub glass.

S: Loved the smell. I tend to love beers that have a fruity or strong alcohol aroma, and this one has a good combination of both. You can definitely smell raisin.

T: Pretty much exactly how it smelled. Definite raisin tones, dark fruits, great sweetness in the mouth, and strong but smooth alcohol finish.

M: Thick enough to have good character, but still easy to handle. Not much carbonation at all.

D: Incredibly smooth for 8%. Sweet and strong and smooth, this beer is excellent to sit down and enjoy almost anywhere.

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Photo of comat0se
4.92/5  rDev +34.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Picked this one up in the bargain bin at Corral Liquors in Illinois. The bottle says bottled in April, but I'm not sure what year that it was. There is an 02 on the glass itself, so I'm guessing April 2002.

Unlike some other reviewers of this beer, this beer poured with a massive 1 inch, small bubbled, frothy head. This head had some of the best retention I've ever seen. The last sip still had at least a half inch of foam left. Amazing.

The first aroma I picked up coming out of the bottle was a winey, champagne-like aroma. Closer examination of the aroma from the glass reveals heavy malt and fruits. The appearance of this beer is outstanding: a deep, crystal-clear, ruby/mahogany color. I was expecting a lighter colored beer, and lighter in body (not sure why). This is not what this beer is about. It's a bright, and bold beer. Some might not agree with the beers sweetness, and think it diverges too much from "what beer should be." But I think not... I'm continually amazed by what beer can be. This beer has all sorts of things going on. You taste dark fruits, black cherries, chocolate, maybe even cherry coke, followed by a hint of roasted and a bit of pencil flavor (yes, wood pencil) and wisps of hot alcohol. The drinkability is almost soda-like, and it goes down fast, easy and refreshingly so. But this isn't any soda... and the mouthfeel immediately gives that away. It is moderately thick and luxurious, not impeded by a heavy carbonation, but yet having the perfect balance of carbonation. This hides its alcohol very well, only traces emerging from time to time remind you that this is no 3.2% beer. There are very little hops present in this beer. I couldn't detect any hop flavor, but yet the finish of the otherwise sweet beer was dry.

A very nice beer... I want another! Hope I can find it again.

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Photo of putnam
4.89/5  rDev +33.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Aromas of molasses, brown sugar, rum and whipped cream. As I rock it back toward my mouth my sinuses are filled with an impression of smoky hard wood.
The texture is fluffy and creamy...nearly Rochefort-like...with Superb balance of chewy, cocoa-dusted candied fruit, vanilla, brazil nuts, steel shavings and pepper.

One of the best damn Belgian...er...American beers I've ever had!

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Photo of nortmand
4.87/5  rDev +33.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark rudy cherry red, with a nice, bit of beech foam and minimal lacing.
Smell is chocolate, currants and sweet cinnamon-clove.
Rich chocolate flavor, with a supporting fruity, raisiny soft flavor. Intensely complex and hard to describe, but somehow right on.
Rich, bubbly carbonation coats the tongue and reminds you that you are indeed drinking beer and not some divine creation.
This beer is absolutely great by any definition. A nearly perfect beer in every respect.

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Photo of maddamish
4.85/5  rDev +32.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had this at the Winking Lizard in Fairlawn Ohio.

After having two mediocre beers I had to find something that I knew to be good. What better way to break up a losing streak than to look to Dogfish?

This BSD Ale was just what the doctor ordered.

When pouring this ale I noticed a syrup consistancy to it. I knew right then that this was going to be something special. There was a slight alcohol smell to it but it was accompanied by raisin and sugar notes.

Taste wise there were grape, sugar (brown) and some alcohol notes to the ale. They blended together nicely and seemed to compliment each other well.

If you are looking for a complex and sweet tasting beer that challanges the palate then put this one on for a try. You will be glad you did!

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Photo of Edgarallenpoor
4.83/5  rDev +32%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Ok ..this beer is complex it has a great smooth taste and for the amount of alcohol in this baby it goes down like butter. Can't rave enough about it You can get this sweet nectar on tap directly at Dogfish Brew Tavern in Gaithersburg Md ..here's the key's ...more Raison Please..

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Photo of SpencerSauce
4.82/5  rDev +31.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I love DFH. Everything they make is gold. So when i heard they made a belgian strong dark i was stoked.

A- Reddish dark clightly clear. Offwhite head that was pretty thick. Deep copper color.

S- fruits like dates or raisons or fig or black cherry. Roasted malts.

T- roasted malts in a belgian! Dried fruit taste.

M- Coats the mouth. Low carbonation in this bottle at least. Medium Light

D- rather easy

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Photo of kevinjosephlee
4.8/5  rDev +31.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottle poured into a glass.

A: A very dark red and clear with an off-white, thick, one-finger head with moderate retention.

S: Sweetness apparent in the nose with a syrup-y like scent. Toasty and bread-y notes do come through. Perhaps some spicy phenols.

T: A strong sweetness. The nose predicts the taste very well. Dark fruits: raisin and prune. Unfortunately, it yielded a bit of a metallic off-flavor, but it did fade as the drink progressed.

M: High carbonation tingle on the tongue. Medium to full body. Noticeably alcohol warmth.

Notes: This beer almost perfectly captures the characteristics of the style. Not to mention, I loved it (and the buzz that it brought). Cheers!

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Photo of cinemadust
4.78/5  rDev +30.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

My favorite that I've had from Dogfish Head so far. It almost has a taste of tea and beer mixed together. Kind of like a spice and fruit. When I drank this from the bottle I had an almost smokey aftertaste. Drinking it from tap at the Dogfish Head brewery restaurant, was served a beer at the perfect temperature. Which made it very easy to taste all the wonderful flavors of this beer. Had barley any head at all, but that's what I like. Goes well with spicy foods. Just be VERY careful. Don't forget it's a 8% ABV. You can't knock them down like regular beers. But you can't taste the extra ABV so again, be cautious.

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Photo of AleBlager
4.74/5  rDev +29.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This Belgian Strong Ale housed a thick dark head, a brown/amber color. The smell was reminiscent of Syrah wine, meaning that it was sweet, but sweet like how a good wine (or wino (Google image search wino)) smells. This is a thick beer, and given the immediate raisin taste, one that would serve as its own dessert. A hoppy-sweet aftertaste, with a smokiness that seals off the drink. explicitly enjoyable. You should take your time and enjoy this beer. The perfect sweet level, this beer is very complex and very well layered.

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Photo of doho95fu
4.73/5  rDev +29.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I really enjoyed this brew, obviously alot more than some of my fellow BA's. The beer pours reddish copper with a thin off-white head and no lacing. There is little or no visible carbonation. The smell is of some fruit with clear malt flavors. The flavor was malty as well, but with some sweet fruit characteristsics as well. I don't know that I rate malty brews so high, this may be the highest malty brew I have rated. I just found it to be highly drinkable and enjoyable for a high ABV brew with some experimental characteristics.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.73/5  rDev +29.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Small head, deep garnet color. Soft aroma, very subtle. "Brewed with Belgian beet sugars, green raisins, and a sense of purpose."
Taste this beer and happiness follows! This is beautiful and unique!
Low carbonation, high hops, little malt that I can detect, but just the right amount of sweetness, and an utterly original flavor. This is a special occasion beer, for when you need a special reward.Light texture, soft and sweet, it's the flavor that makes this a standout brew.
Time and again, I turn folks on to incredible beer like this and they are amazed that there's great beer coming out of Kalamazoo or Pennsylvania or Delaware. Proof again that "you can search the world over and never find a better beer" than those made by craft brewers here in the U.S.A.

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Photo of partypak
4.72/5  rDev +29%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

This tasting was a two year bottle from the celler. served cold 40f the head was a 1 inch in frosted mug.. left fast mice lacing in the glass. nice red brown color. taste smooth and creamy no sharp notes a nice smooth finish. this beer tames out so good with age. the draw back this goes down easy and fast be careful this is in a class by it self one of the best.

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Photo of rattech
4.72/5  rDev +29%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured into a chalice.

Appearance: A reddish brown with a distinct golden sheen. A head forms that dissipates, it really looks quite beautiful.

Smell: Rich malty smell with raisins and sweetness. This is what I like my beer to smell like

Taste: A good blend of bitterness coupled with sweetness and a good raisin note. The taste is smooth and malty and there is a distinct lack of alcohol flavor even though it is 8%.

Mouthfeel: Nicely carbonated, a nice level of thickness.

Drinkability: Despite the high alcohol percent and sweetness I have no trouble drinking quite a few of these beers. This has amazing drinkability for me.

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Photo of kaboose72
4.7/5  rDev +28.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Dogfish, in my opinion one of the top 3 breweries in the US. Raison D'etre is to me their greatest year round brew. so unique and tasty. Definitley a must try if you have not had one yet. pours well, strong nose and full of flavor. with just the right amount of abv

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Photo of Boto
4.7/5  rDev +28.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this on tap at the CTRiver brewers festival. It is a bit of mahogany in color. Much more head than in the bottled version. Head Ligners for awhile. Inhale this and WOW! Big nose very remenicent of a Belgian Strong. Sweet, strong nose. Very Aromatic. The taste is very sweet also. Caramel & fruit. This is a definite keeper. Not quite sure how this is listed in the Belgian Strong Style. There are some similarities, but I'm not sure what style I would classify it as. Still a very hard one to beet!

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

Poured into a Duvel tulip glass.
Forms a one inch head that quickly settles down to a slight collar. It barely looks carbonated at this point, but is a warm amber color that smells great....fruit, vanilla, alcohol, malt.
Taste is really complex...a lot going on here....sweet, just the right amount of alcohol, balanced with the raison, plum and malty yeast flavor.
Mouthfeel is great...medium to slight syrupy feel...just a light carbonation. Perfect.
Very drinkable; I always want more...but the 8%....depends on whether it's a weeknight or weekend.
Think I'll keep some on hand.
Another great ale from Dogfish Head.

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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 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 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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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.66 out of 5 based on 4,288 ratings.
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