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: 4,289
Photo of rodbeermunch
2.66/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

Comes in dark brown. 1/3" head, off white, almost tan. Aroma made no sense, belgian yeast phenols, raisin bread, dark fruit.

Sweet taste counterbalancing the dark fruit bitterness. A little too boozy for its malt bill. This is kind of the quintessential DFH beer, a bunch of shit thrown together that doesn't work, but they get to brand themselves as innovative and unique, despite the fact I'd rather just have a BMC over this thing.

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Photo of SuperSpy
2.66/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Poured from a 12oz bottle to a pint glass.

A - The beer is a very clear, and just as the label states, mahogany. The head is tan and thick but it dissipates to a 1/4 inch foam cap after a minute or two. It looks very tempting.

S - Sweet maltiness, almost buttery. A bit of caramel, high alcohol.

T/M - Medium bodied but could use more carbonation. The flavors are of esters and alcohol that don't exactly dominate but they distract from the toffee and other malt characteristics that are there if you search hard enough for them. The hops sort of come out of nowhere at the end and the aftertaste doesn't really leave me wanting more. It's not a bad flavor, it's just not a very good one.

D - I have no trouble drinking the one here in front of me but I really expected more from Dogfish. I would like to try this on a nitro-tap to see if it is any different but this will not be my first choice for a Belgian strong dark. On the other hand, it is a beautiful beer to look at.

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Photo of Kwak
2.66/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

got a case of this from a friend who did not care for it i can understand
it had a dark rich brown color with a small head that disappeared rather quickly

almost no smell at all but a hint of sweetness

the taste is slight raisin almost prune like with a touch of cough medicine like sweetness
the aftertaste was a little bitter but not overly stated
could pound these beers but with the high alcohol i might kill myself

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Photo of manwich
2.66/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured out of a growler into a chalice. Not much of a head on top, dark but clear body. Rather unusual smell, kind of smoky. Not at all a fan of the taste, syrupy and smoky, reasonable mouthfeel but an otherwise unenjoyable drinking experience. I found myself trying to down it before it got warmer, as I could tell that the unpleasant flavors were getting stronger as the glass warmed up, yet at the same time I wasn't inclined to finish the beer at all. I'm very open minded with beer and have rarely found a craft beer that I legitimately didn't want to finish, but this had to be as close as I've come. I wound up letting my housemates finish the rest of the growler.

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Photo of carp420
2.65/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

12oz->pint glass

nice dark brownish red, burgandy with a two finger tall head that tried to stick around for a minute but couldn't although it did leave a thin layer of foam on top, layered the glass nicely

smells very fruity and sweet, raisins and brown sugar permeate with a little malty smell

taste really sweet, lots of brown sugar and malts, too much malt really, lots of fruit obviously raisins the green tarty kind, with a little yeast to try and balance it all out. once it warms the alcohol becomes overpowering

too much carbonation and malt, too thick for an ale

not gonna be able to drink many of these in a sitting, it's just too sweet and too much malt to even try to be an ale, totally different beer when cold, it'll turn your stomach when warm

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Photo of Admiraldinty
2.65/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Appearance: Pours a rich amber with a one-inch head that dissipates quickly.

Smell: Brown sugar, toffee, alcohol at the end. Pretty good up to this point.

Taste: Here is where the disappointment comes in: the taste is not well integrated. Heavy caramel and malt sweetness and a separate alcohol, and crappy hops taste. It just doesn't come together at all.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, soft mouthfeel, but not at all pleasant.

Drinkability: I'm still pissed at myself that I have to drink five more of these. So disappointing. I'll choke them down, but only because of economics.

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Photo of stoutmasterjames
2.64/5  rDev -27.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

I am usually a fan of all things Dogfish, but this particular brew just didn't do it for me. I'm not saying it wasn't artfully brewed or put together carefully. To me personally, the taste is what killed it, or to be more precise, the flavor. It is not too strong or overbearing, just unpleasant to my palate. Oh well, I got 4 90 min IPAs in the fridge to help me forget about the gross aftertaste of the Raison D'Etre. Thanks Dogfish! For the 90 min IPA that is...

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Photo of pijiu
2.64/5  rDev -27.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A: A deep red chai color with a thin cream-colored head. Fine and gentle carbonation.

Poured from the bottle into a pint glass.

S: Smells sweet, raisins are the obvious main note. Hints of cider and roast. A bit of citrus scent.

T/M: Sweet and honeyed first taste very pronounced. Acrid quality present in the aftertaste, especially on the back of the tongue. A certain amount of vegetal taste, somewhat hay-like.
Not at all viscous, but yet somehow manages to seem heavy, perhaps it's the bitterness. I am not impressed by it's flavor.

D: I think the concept behind this beer is good. However, I feel that in the end the flavors do not mesh as well as I had hoped. The texture is weak and incongruent with the weight of the flavor. I would rate it low on drinkability.

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Photo of LarryV
2.63/5  rDev -28.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

This was my first and last six pack of this brew. Pours with nary a head, just a thin white film. Malty aroma with burnt overtones and a bit of bubblegum. Taste is sweet, malty, burnt tasting - don't care for it at all. Very little hops presence, just a cloying sweetness. Definitely not one of Dogfish Head's better beers, but a step above Saint Gootz (this tastes rather similar to SG).

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Photo of jdklks
2.63/5  rDev -28.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

pours a deep amber/brown with a fizzy white head that retreats quickly into nothing but a thin ring around the glass. smells hoppy, malty, belgian yeasty. raisins, figs, and brown sugar are also present.

i dont drink a whole lot of belgian style beers, and this is perhaps why. they tend to taste badly. not terrible up front; sweet, and nothing else. hardly any complexity, just dullness. maybe some raisins through the middle. the finish is by far the worst part of the beer. an unpleasant burnt sugar flavor, made a little less unpleasant by the fact that it is simply dull. there is really nothing here to taste. my least favorite DFH beer ive tried.

mouthfeel is overly carbonated, but has a decent medium body. drinkability is damn near nil. i wouldn't buy it again, and i may drain pour this one, so as to be able to salvage my beer experience for the night.

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Photo of damndirtyape
2.62/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Single bottle (bottled on 12/28/10) poured into a snifter.

Appearance: A clear ruby-red to brown beer (you could indeed call it mahogany as the bottle says) that poured a 1/4" light tan dense head. However the head died down to a thin ring around the edge of the glass and a very thin little island in the middle of the beer. Very little lacing - every now and then but it slowly slides back down. Slow bubbles moving up through the beer. I'm digging the color, but the lack of head and lacing is a bit of a bummer.

Smell: Richness of malt with some caramel notes and then something that smells sulfur-like / cooked veggie to me - but then it passes and there is a hint again of something sweet and fruit-like. It may be the raisins, but it's not quite it. That initial smell is good, but what follows unfortunately puts me off. The smell is really bad if you swirl the beer - maybe the hops?

Taste: Similar to the smell - starts off with a rich malt, caramel, and fruity/alcohol taste, but then that next flavor hits. While it is sulfur-like in smell, it tastes more spicy / peppery here. The finish is sharp and mildly sweet - it just ends - due to the carbonation which scrubs the tongue clean at the end of the sip. Not bad, but it's not great either.

Mouthfeel: Quite highly carbonated on the tongue - really scrubs it with spiciness, which is surprising giving the little bit I see moving up through the glass. Some lingering sensation on the teeth and in the end I think a bit too fizzy.

Drinkability: Maybe with the right meal I could make this work, but I've had far better Belgian Dark Ales, and this by itself in a snifter isn't great. Maybe it's meant to be in a different glass and the smell and taste is different. But I'm not liking it and it is a bit of a chore to finish. Oh well - one cannot like every beer you come across.

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Photo of thirdeye11
2.6/5  rDev -29%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Presentation: Poured from 12oz bottle into a thick 22oz pint-style glass.

A: Pours a deep brown color that has hints of rust and molasses. The beer has a nice 1 1/2 finger almost white head that disappears pretty quickly. Not much lacing in this one. The beer is also completely clear which for me Belgians should not be. No yeasty floaters either, also a detractor for me personally.

S: Smells like roasted malt, caramel, and molasses on the back. These are all very prominent. Verging on burnt toast smells in some cases. Fairly complex nose, but not necessarily in a great way. This may be the best aspect of the beer though.

T & M: Not EXACTLY what I expected from the nose, but close. The roasty malts are so in your face and dominate the flavor profile almost completely. There is some caramel and molasses sweetness, but without any real weight to them. Taste doesn't match the mouthfeel as it feels like it should be thicker in body. Doesn't really coat my mouth as I'd like. No creaminess either which is a huge detractor in this heavy on flavor beer. Not complex either which most Belgians are.

D: I felt myself wanting to drink this less and less as it warmed up which is converse to almost every Belgian beer I've ever had. I couldn't finish but about 60% of it. I have 4 left at home too so they will probably be drank over time.

Not a good example of a Belgian at all, and this beer says it is brewed with green raisins but I don't taste it at all. Unbalanced, hard to drink, and not recommended unless you just like to try "new" things. For that reason you may want to check it out. It's unlike anything I've had to date.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
2.6/5  rDev -29%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Accidentally stole this from the fridge of our landlady's house when we were staying in New York. I realised I hadn't reviewed it, so, the crime being done, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Pours a deep red-hued brown, almost like a light red wine, with a large-bubbled scum on the top as an excuse for a head. The colour of the beer is gorgeous, and it has some heft to the body, but the head is disappointing.

Sigh. Nose is light, but slightly fruity, and with the sweet sense of fermented sugar. Smells too raw and spiritous for its 8% ABV, and like some of DFH's other hybrid beers, it lacks the complexity that is required.

Taste is very similar, or worse, because there's very little here at all. Very light empty feel with a hint of bland spirits and a grainy but weak finish. Little complexity and almost nothing on the palate. Very bland—c'mon, even the overdone spiritous burn would be better than this.

A very lacklustre and very uninspired effort from Dogfish Head. Unfortunately, it falls into their regular trap of having a theoretically interesting idea that turns into a very pedestrian brew.

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Photo of wowbagger
2.59/5  rDev -29.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Huge fan of the brewery, and I've been hearing about this beer for a while so I was very excited to give it a try.

Brownish red pour with decent head. Smells of hop, I'd call it a 'wet hop' smell. Not sure why but that's what it felt like to me.

It's a sweet spiced hopy taste. The flavors are nice but not very well balanced. Maybe it was the hype but I was a tad disappointed. Still a decent beer, but not all I expected I guess. Feels like a spicier brown ale to me, nothing special in my book.

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Photo of BeerResearcher
2.59/5  rDev -29.2%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Sometimes, even great chefs lose or forget the basic principles of blending and pairing ingredients. They get off-track and begin to throw ingredients together with no apparent direction in mind. Such is the case with the brewmaster of Raison D'Etre. While not a bad beer, it's clear that this is an experimental concoction. The deep amber color with red tint would be improved with any sign of a lasting head. The full malt body is sweetened beyond any reasonable expectation. "Oh Boy, Green Raisins! Extra Sugar ("maybe this will help", yum!) "Let's pour some alcohol into the brew to appeal to the street people!" The aroma is sweet and alcoholic. This is an experiment best abandoned!

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Photo of goblue3509
2.58/5  rDev -29.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Pours a medium copper color with no head at all and no lacing. The aroma is of molasses and some raisins with a hint of sweet malt. The taste is of a big caramel backbone with some raisins and a slight sweetness as well. The mouthfeel is syrupy and moderately carbonated. The drinkability is okay one is good two would be okay any more and I dont know. The taste was dominated by caramel to much for this class for me.

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Photo of TagoMago
2.58/5  rDev -29.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Presentation: 12 oz. longneck bottle.

Appearance: Hazy amber brown. Pours with a very faint head. Lacing is also very faint.

Aroma. Pungent and solvent-like with an overpowering fusal alcoholic stench.

Taste: Up front alcoholic punch - very fusal. The alcohol seems to be overpowering. There is some and hops and malt with some funky raisin and plum-like overtones

Overall: This is one of the worst offerings from Dogfish Head - completely unbalanced in every way. I won't be buying this again.

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Photo of Eriktheipaman
2.57/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured a dark amber color with pretty much no head.

The smell was of brown sugar and raisins.

The taste was very one dimensional with raisins being the only thing shinning here. The mouth feel was fairly thin as well with no malt coming in to back up the flavor on the front.

I was fairly disappointed in this one. While not bad tasting by any means I just expected more from the style and brewery. On the plus side I couldn't pick up any of the 8% ABV.

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Photo of mrjimcat
2.56/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Tried this brew and was not that impressed. The bouquet was heavy with solvent alcohol. The deep color was attractive but the taste was not that appealing. Interesting but not very appealing. The bitterness was appropriate and was followed by a strong and warm alcohol finish. The sample I tasted had virtually no head. It was not at all reminiscent of Belgians I have tasted which were all lively and bubbly. I would not buy more of this flavor.

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Photo of eberkman
2.56/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Served in a bottle at Biltmore in Newton Upper Falls, Mass.

Poured, like advertised on the bottle, a deep mahogany red (looks like my desk at work) with about a finger of off-white head with not a lot of volume retention, but at least a film stuck around for the duration.

Smell was pretty much malty notes -- caramel, molasses, darker fruits -- with a little bit of alcohol but not as much as I generally detect in anything billed as a Belgian strong dark ale.

Taste was, to be perfectly frank, disappointing. Just an overbearing, cloying, syrupy sweetness with no dryness or hoppyness to balance it out, other than occasional sour notes. I primarily tasted raisins. It was like someone mashed up my toddler's snack, bottled it and served it. Some traces of alcohol, but primarily just overwhelmingly sticky sweetness.

Mouthfeel was pretty thick with very little carbonation -- certainly not what you get from others filed in this category, like Ommegang or Trois Pistoles.

Drinkability was good for its ABV in the sense that it felt like more than one of these wouldn't totally knock you out. But in terms of taste, I found it way too syrupy sweet to tolerate more than one, if that.

Not representative of the style -- has it been mischaracterized on here? And a disappointing offering from the brewery that has blessed us with the sublime 90-Minute IPA. But everyone has their clunkers.

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Photo of depechemode1983
2.56/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A - Pours out dark reddish brown in color. Has a one finger off-white head with little retention.

S - Smells sweet and very boozy. Definitely picking up raisins along with bread and sour white wine. Kind of a funky smell.

T - Whoa this beer is hot. Even for 8% abv. Very alcoholic taste up front. Raisins are hidden by a medicinal flavor but still faintly there. Towards the end it sweetens up a bit with a syrup and candy sugar notes along with some sourness. Alcohol stays with this beer all the way to then end. In a bad way.

M - Mouth feel is medium bodied and with high carbonation .

O - This has to be the worst Belgian Strong Dark Ale I have had to date. Smells funky. Flavors are off and carbonation is too high. I wonder if I bought a bad bottle. Glad I just purchased the single bottle.

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Photo of dakid618
2.55/5  rDev -30.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Pours with virtually no head in a pint glass. Smells like sugar and chocolate oddly. Deep mahogany color just like the bottle says. Taste is sweet, only thing that's hints at being beer is the malt. Overall not very drinkable. Too thick and complex to drink more than one.

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Photo of GoldenVIKE
2.54/5  rDev -30.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

They advertise that this won some award for the best new American beer?! Who was judging that?!

A-pours nicely, and has a unique burgundy, brownish color and decent off-white head; however that dissipates into a ring quickly and doesn't leave much lace.

S-it doesn't really have much of a smell. Some sour yeastiness is all I'm really getting. They say there's some green raisins in there? OK maybe. Smells a bit like a Riesling actually, but less powerful.

T-I've had it. This beer should not have won any awards. It tastes like a watered down generic Belgian dark ale. Not much going on.

M-Keeping with the theme, this beer FEELS watered down too, with less carbonation that you'd expect from a good beer of this style. None of that crisp bite that you'd hope for from a Belgian beer.

O-This beer isn't awful but I was expecting a whole lot more. It's a Dogfish Head and is supposed to be the best new beer in America and I'm just not seeing it.

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Photo of Beertron
2.54/5  rDev -30.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Got a nice set of samples from the distributor...figured I'd review them.

I was excited about this beer because I've never tried it but I've had enough beers from DFH to know that their stuff is going to either be fantastic or fascinating -- sometimes both. Poured from bottle to pint glass.

A - Medium golden hue with a soft red tone (R242G177B65). Light white head with orangish tint. Nice big lacing. Soft-to-barely-noticeable carbonation.

S - Raisins, big time. There's a yeasty and syrupy scent going on here with a bit of dark spice a la clove in the background. It also carries a faint aroma of bad coffee (not poorly brewed coffee, just bad -- like Folger's or gas station coffee).

T - Again, raisins. Also, prunes and black currants. There's a syrupy quality but its not outright sweet. It's like the dark sweetness of brown sugar or, more accurately, sorghum syrup. That coffee shows up here in the flavor profile but this time it comes across more like the bitterness of straight coffee grounds. Despite every indication from the appearance, this beer has a lot in common with a dry Irish stout. It's a little more drinkable than I'm making it sound and its very interesting but I'm still having a bit of trouble finishing this one. However, there's some good food pairings to be made here for sure though.

M - It seems like the raisins brought their own sticky astringency to this party. That lightly bitter, syrupy quality is just shy of overbearing. The tastes in this one really just stick to your mouth. Yikes!

D - Sorry. While I could certainly see myself drinking this sometime again just because its so interesting, I couldn't drink more than one of these in any given setting.

F - This would go well with cheese; especially softer, riper cheeses like chevre, brie, camerbert, etc. It would also match well with the right chutney or compote and could really contrast nicely with some great cured meats like prosciutto, salumi or cullatello.

O - One of the reasons this beer suffers in my review is that I'm not a huge fan of raisins. At the same time, I don't hate them or anything. I guess this experiment just showed the answer to a question I had never before asked, "Would I like raisin flavors in my beer?" And thanks to DFH for asking these bizarro questions and attempting all of these unique beers. I'm always a fan of boundary-pushers in food/beverage world.

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Photo of Jwaks
2.52/5  rDev -31.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Serving 12oz bottle

Shows a wonderful translucent amber color with little to no carbonation and a moderate beige head that totally dissapates leaving nothing behind. Where is the

Roasted malts, sweet vinous fruit, rum soaked raisins and molasses dominate the nose with a bit of brown sugar kicking in the background.

A bit of nutty roasted malts, molasses and sugar makes a graceful entry giving away to a bit of sweet fruit and tons of fusel alcohol. An off-dry finish with more alchol and a bit of astringent off-flavors leave me wanting something else to balance on the aftertaste but only dry tannic fruit, wamring alcohol and a bit of malt answer - that's not what I was hoping for.

A great smooth mouthfeel is thrown out the window with tons of alcohol, odd astringent flavors, total lack of carbonation and a unpleasant dry finish - poor balance and lackluster taste don't provide much motivation to grab my glass for another sip.

This is a belgian strong dark ale? It's a poor one at that, balance is all off, flavors are lacking and artificial and alcohol is overwhelming and highly conspicious. DFH, this deviates from your norm, you let me down this time; if you want a truly good belgian strong dark ale then buy one from belgian, if you want to kick yourself for buying this and not something else then go with this DFH offering. This beer is well suited as curiostiy and a single try but not much else.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.66 out of 5 based on 4,289 ratings.
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