Raison D'Être | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Raison D'ÊtreRaison D'Être
Liked This Beer
3.65 w/ 4,300 ratings
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

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,300 |  Reviews: 1,773
Photo of Fuller
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

pours a clear, dark amber color with almost no head. Leaves very little lacing. Aroma is of dark sweet fruit and a hint of coffee. Taste starts out almost sugary sweet and is followed by roasted malts, sweet fruit (raisin) and some alcohol. Seems a little thin and watery, but that may be due to the fact that I just had a DFH 90min. and this just seems thin compared to it.

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Photo of MuddyFeet
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured a neat purple-tinged brown. Finger deep head that receded to the edges of the glass with a spot in the center. Saw some sediment pour into the glass. Is this bottle conditioned? The aroma is slightly yeasty with grapes and raisins in it. The raisins also come out in the flavor, as well as prunes. Love the dried fruit. Makes me think of a dessert wine. Also, molasses and other Belgian sugars. Bit yeasty. Mouthfeel is very full, but the alcohol is a bit stronger and noticeable than I expected. Nice and drinkable, but the alcohol burn may be a bit much after a while

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Photo of jsdunlop
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This one poured a light amber hue with a minimal head that faded fairly quickly. The aroma of alcohol dominated the olfactory passageways and was followed by brown sugar, fruits, and a slight hop aroma. Upon first taste, it was sweet and sugary with a strong malty backbone that intermingled with the high alcohol content very nicely. Slight hints of plums and red grapes made their way into my senses as well. The mouthfeel was balanced well with carbonation and wasn't too thin despite the alcohol present in this one. Overall, it was a tad too sweet, though the underlying flavors were an enjoyment for sure.

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Photo of Vdubb86
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served in a pint glass

Pours a nice clear mahogany red, with a finger of the lightest of tans foam that quickly fades into nothing but a slight film. The aroma initially has the tartness of the golden raisins, but is quickly overpowered and masked by the caramel malts. In addition there is the pleasant aroma of honey which is muddled by the smell of liquor on the back of the nostrils. The taste is of caramel malts and the booze. There is a significant bitterness that goes with both. There is the distinct flavor of golden honey which is this beers saving grace. The aftertaste is the only place that you'll find the raisin flavor. The bitter astringent nature is more akin to an Old Ale than the BSDA. It's drinkable in the sense that you can consume it no problem if you sip it. Dear lord don't drink it too fast. Too much on the mouth makes this beer taste worse. Having said all of that it's still a good beer, but it's a one time thing for me.

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Photo of BeerTruth
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a 12 oz. glass into a snifter.

This beer poured a clear reddish amber hue with a thick off-white head that died down pretty quick. Lace in this brew is quite weak, little to none throughout. Smell is of toasted raisins with a bit of fig, very malt-like scent with a subtle hint of alcohol. Taste is malty, with a bit of a hop undertone. A bit of caramel seems to appear with the raisin/fig flavor following up. Carbonation is weak, with a high drinkability for an 8% abv. Unique beer I must say, but Dogfish is known for that. Pick this one up if you enjoy trying something new, definitely worth a try.

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Photo of coldmeat23
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

GLASS: Unibroue Tulip Glass
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 45 degrees

Pours a deep mahogany red/brown with a thick off-white head that is light and dissipates quickly. This is a nice looking brew.

The smell is sweet, sugary, and raisin-y. That's after you get past the slightly off-putting alcohol smell. There also seems to be a bit of maltiness there, as well.

Sweet malts are followed by (over?)ripe fruit flavors. Some chocolate in there and a touch of coffee and roasted malts. Raisins and very green earthiness on the back end. Tastes of burnt fruits at various sips. The alcohol, while indeed warming, is suprisingly well hidden to the tongue.

This feels average, at best. Slightly watery and thin. You can tell that it's trying to be more full-bodied, but it just can't pull it off.

It is a decently drinkable beer, but I think that I'd wind up reaching for other ones before this one half of the time.

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Photo of Soneast
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a clear, dark copper color, with some reddish hues, forms a small cream colored head, that dissipates quite rapidly.

The aroma consists of burnt caramel and brown sugar notes and a bit-o-nuttiness. There is also an almost smoky quality to it. Overall this smells quite sweet and rather rich.

The flavor, not unlike the aroma, is malt-centric, with those caramel and brown sugar notes coming through and once again I pick up some nuttiness reminiscent of a nut brown, and also an odd roasted quality. There are also some light green fruit flavors, more along the line of green apple than grape, but overall this beer is quite sweet, with little, to no bitterness, finishing rather sweet, never quite gets to the point of being cloyingly sweet.

Raison D'etre is not a beer I could drink more than one or two in a row. It's is quite rich, but feels more sugary sweet than the average BSDA that I am used to, which brings out their character in malt complexity, rather than sweetness.

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Photo of MaddestHatter
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

I had this at a Dogfish Head restaurant the other night and I can say that it is certainly one of the standouts of theirs for me. I didn't have a chance to try Midas Touch or anything too wild, but I quite enjoyed this one along with a precisely medium lamb burger. All in all a good experience from start to finish. A spicy Belgian malt and yeast taste serves to excellently compliment a color and faint sweetness which are not entirely unlike Russian kvass (a beer-like soft drink made from fermenting roasted bread rusks together with a variety of fruits and herbs). Definitely something I would order again or buy in stores.

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Photo of JRed
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

It has a cough syrup color, reddish tint, and a medicine cabinet smell. Syrupy, sugary. The taste is one of synthetic sugars in a blender with Civil War grandma's cure for syphilis. But it has a syrupy, molasses-like taste that can be warming in the cold weather. This special beer has a great mouthfeel, it goes down smooth and leaves behind a dry sugar aftertaste. If tonight calls for strange behavior, a party with Bacchus on a rainy, cold day then this is the drink for the night.

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Photo of BatsforBeer
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

12oz bottle poured into oversized wine glass

A: Light Mahogany, 1 finger off-white head dissipates moderately, little lacing that shimmers in the light.

S: initial brown sugar malt followed by fruity peach like esters; very pleasant.

T: Carmel fades into toasty malt accompanied fruity notes which are hard to place (I assume it's the green raisons), ends very sweet and slightly bitter.

M: Medium bodied, creamy

D: This is where this beer falls short, It is much better when it is cold and as it warms it gets sweeter, too sweet in my opinion, after one, I'm moving on to something else, but I will come back someday!

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Photo of dogfishandi
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle at fridge temp (pulled this from my cellar several days before) poured into an SA perfect pint glass. bottled on 12/31/2008, so almost exactly 2 years of age on it.

first off, let me begin by saying ive had this beer several times fresh and was less than impressed. way too sweet, astringent, and boozy, so im interested to see what 2 years of age will do.

pours out a slightly murky ruby red, orange color with a thin 1/4 inch of fizzy off white head that faded almost instantly to a thin ring. halfway through the glass, even the ring was gone. no lace.

lots of caramel off the initial smell, almost a little roasted, but after that, i find that you have to inhale deep to find the aromas. dark slightly sweet fruits, raisons, prunes, figs. a bit of molasses as it warms. just a touch of alcohol noticable, but it seems to have mellowed out nicely with age.

that spicy solvent alcohol has mellowed out a great deal in the taste, just a little aparent towards the finish. rich caramel, slightly roasted malt, dark dried fruits, raisons, figs, prunes. just a bit of esters from the yeast. medium to heavy body. still slightly astringent, but not nearly as bad as a fresh bottle.

overall, this is much better after 2 years of age on it. a lot of the harsh qualities are gone. but i still couldnt see drinking more than one of these at time and not really worth buying again. if you have the space in your cellar and lots of patience, go for it, age a few, but i really wouldnt go out of my way to do so again.

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Photo of Treyliff
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Pours a deep murky copper color with small head and hardly and lacing. Smells of beets, sweet raisons, and sugary malts.

Tastes very sweet on the backend, the raisons really come through, almost overpowering the beer though. Slight bitter aftertaste. The high alcohol content is hidden well though. Mouthfeel is good, as is the consistancy. Drinkability wouldn't rank very high due to the overpowering sweetness on the backend. Overall, pretty good brew.

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Photo of jegross2
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Reviewing the Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.
Score: 83

Bottled on 08/09/11, served in a pint glass at Merkles Bar & Grill in Wrigleyville and enjoyed on 03/31/12 with my good friend Bryan Hernandez.

Appearance: Pours a murky, blood orange colored core that fades to a dull late sunset colored outline. Minimal head at pour, just a little bubble tan layer that quickly settles. Minimal oily lacing, below average retention. 3/5

Smell: Brown sugar, Belgian yeast, cinnamon and nutmeg. Raisin, fig, banana, creamy vanilla, and doughy bread (Hernandez swears it smells like the Guinness bread he baked the other week). The menu says there is "beet sugar" in the aroma, but I would not have guessed it if the menu did not tell me that. 3.5/5

Taste: First impression is yeast and doughy bread with a modest vanilla twist. There is a dry and nondescript earthy bitterness (hops?) on the back half of the palate. Malty wheat, banana bread and an earthy nuttiness on the midpalate. Some light raisin flavor, without the sweetness, mixed throughout. None of the brown sugar or cinnamon from the aroma is seemingly present in the flavor. Finishes with a lingering Belgian yeast flavor that is a bit sugary. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Smooth, slightly oily mouthfeel. Very dry, and a little acidic upfront. 3.5/5

Overall: Most DFH brews, given their experimental approach to craft, tend to be hit-or-miss, but this one falls somewhere between. I enjoyed this beer, and it was solid, but I would not have ordered another. I doubt I would buy this at the store in the future either, having previously tried it. DFH makes much better beers (e.g., Miles Davis Bitches Brew) than this, but they also make plenty that are way worse (e.g., Faithfull Ale).

Recommendation: Worth trying, but not worth seeking out.

Pairings: Roasted chicken.

Cost: $5 for a 12 oz bottle at the bar.

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Photo of BuckyFresh
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass. The beer is Ruby/Mahogany in color with a 1-2 finger head that recedes quickly. The color of the head is a nice caramel. Lacing is minimal and slides off the sides of the glass fairly fast. Pretty light carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass.

Smell: I was kind of surprised by this one; I get a pretty funky yeast aroma, almost reminiscent of a Trappist ale. Dark fruits and some alcohol are detectable, as well as brown sugar and molasses. There is also a bit of toasted malt and maybe a bit of caramel.

Taste: Due to my love of Trappist ales, I was pretty excited to taste this one after indulging in its aroma. Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed with the flavor. There is an unpleasant metallic presence and an astringency that are not at all what the aroma suggests. The beer manages to be a little alcoholic and a little watery at the same time. The alcohol flavor kind of disguises the malt and hops presence, and a lack of carbonation adds to the unbalance.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and maybe a touch watery. Balance feels a bit out of whack due to the alcohol flavor and low carbonation.

Drinkability: Didn't really go down all that smoothly. The alcohol flavor would definitely get to me after awhile, and the higher ABV might also prevent this one from being a go-to session beer.

An interesting beer to say the least. I'm glad I tried it, but I don't think I'll be running out to restock any time soon.

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Photo of BeerDocT
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a chilled, wide-mouthed glass.

-Appearance 3.0: Poured out a slightly cloudy amber. Beautiful color, but marred a bit by cloudiness. Small head that quickly disappeared.

-Smell 3.5: Very nice bouquet. I smell many, many sugary smells: caramel, brown sugar, molasses...hmmm. Makes me wonder if the beer itself will be a bit on the sweet side.

-Taste 3.5: Sweet taste up front, with a...sweet taste in the middle and some very nice -but very slight-- sourness and hoppiness present after the swallow. Long aftertaste. There is an interesting, almost cinnamon and clove taste in the middle of this beer that reminds me of another beer I drank a few years ago...Dogfish Head Punkin. I don't find it unpleasant, but it's interesting: perhaps if one is so inclined, one may try the more expensive "Punkin" by trying a six pack of the more affordable "Raison."

-Mouthfeel 3.5: Good mouthfeel. There is almost too much carbonation in this beer, but the sweetness manages to smooth it out. Slightly creamy feel is also a plus.

-Overall 3.5: This is a average to good beer with some very unique flavor characteristics that I now see are indicative of several brews from Dogfish Head. Not that it is a bad thing. I think that this beer is slightly better than average, but the things that make it better than average are negatively impacted by the sweetness present in this beer. It is just a little TOO sweet to be a session beer, but it desperately wants to be a session beer. I've written too much about this beer. It's worth a try if you've never had it. Give it a chance.

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Photo of BigBry
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle into a dimpled mug, from a 6 pack I brought back. Description looks interesting.
Poured a mahogany color (this is good), but minimal head, some bubbles but no retention. Sweet aroma of molasses and sugar, are dominant. Some fruit (green raisin?) and herbal hops. Nice mixture of smells. Complex pile of flavors. Some of the same sweetnes from the sugars, molasses and caramel flavors. Some spiciness, almost yeasty notes as well. Herbal, earthy hop finish. Lots of alcohol coming through as well. Medium body and carbonation, not really as smooth and creamy as I was expecting, a bit of a hot finish from the alcohol. Overall this is a complex, and flavor filled beer, but just didn't do anything for me. I guess I had a different idea for a Belgian Dark Ale. It is good, but just not for me. I still have a couple bottles - maybe the flavors will grow on me.

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Photo of carolinabeerguy
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pours a deep caramel brown with 1/2 finger head. Almost no lacing.

Smell: Bit of caramel mixed with dried fruits.

Taste: Malty flavor with a hint of fruit. Strong hint of alcohol at the finish. Sweet coffee aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied with almost a slick, oily texture. Minimal carbonation.

Drinkability: Because of the heavier nature of the beer and the high ABV, I wouldn't want more than 1 or 2 of these.

Overall: I'd rate it as a decent beer but not really representative of the style. If you come across it buy it, but I wouldn't seek it out.

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Photo of kflack
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at. Vbgb charlotte.

Pours a deep amber with a 1/2 finger head. Nice laceing.

Smell a little malt, oak, and a hint of booze. Well more than a hint!

Taste is smooth, a little boozey. Raision is a little much. Abv and sweetness need to be balanced better!

Mouthfeel is spot on for the style.

Overall not bad but will not order again, moving on...

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Photo of beeritron
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Slightly hazy, deep copper color with a moderate, light tan head. The head shrinks to a layer just on top of the beer. A fruity smell mixed with a light hop aroma. The raisins are definitely evident. A roasted, malty smell rounds out the aroma nicely. A moderate hop character balances well with the aggressive malt profile. Caramel is noticeable along with a fruity taste on the back of the tongue. Medium bodied with a nice level of carbonation. The alcohol is noticeable and tingles the tongue and throat. A good beer to try.

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Photo of gabe23
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

A - Clear amber color with a very little head or lacing.

S - Sweet raisins, caramel, malt, and alcohol.

T - Deep flavor of roasted malt with a lot of sweetness and fruit tones. Raisins and brown sugar dominate with a bit of heat from the alcohol on the finish.

M - Low carbonation, thick and dry.

D - I enjoyed one, but I don't know that I'd be able to finish two. It's a rich beer meant to be savored slowly.

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Photo of NolateM
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

The appearance of this beer was literally near perfect. Poured into a weizen glass (just cuz I like weizen glasses, even though I don't like most wheat beers), it had the most beautiful rich mahogany color I've ever seen in a beer, with a SLIGHTLY tan, mostly white head. The head sorta disappeared after a sip, but a thin layer lingered around for a while (which I always find quite nice), not too much lacing though.

The aroma wasn't particularly impressive. Alcohol and yeast basically, it didn't have me too excited.

On the first sip I went "Hey, I like this!" Definitely can taste the raisins, some caramel notes, and alcohol presence. It reminded me a little bit of a milder version of Ommegang, actually. A few sips in though, the flavor seemed a bit weak for some reason, as if it were a bit watered down. I'm not sure why the first sip had me so impressed, but then eventually I started going "meh." Although when I paired it with a piece of sharp cheddar, the flavor seemed to improve again.

One thing I will definitely give this beer a ton of points for is the mouthfeel. It has the cleanest finish I've ever even imagined in a beer. Not a hint of lingering bitterness or dry-mouth feeling whatsoever. I've never had a beer quite like that before.

I'd say give it a try, it ain't too shabby, just not particularly as full-bodied as I'd expected.

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Photo of droomyster
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear mahogany with an off-white head. Smell is not attractive: noes of sweet malts and an almost locker-room scent that is a bit startling. Taste, on the other hand, is pretty good: brown sugar and toffee maltiness with a woodsy bitterness. Medium body is spot on the money. An interesting beer whose aromas are incongruous with its taste.

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Photo of Procrastinator
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle poured into Nonic pint glass. 8% alcohol on label.

Appearance: mahogony brown red. Almost no head remains after vigorous pour.

Smell: alcohol, sweet fruit, brown sugar and raisins, maple syrup.

Taste: sweet plums and raisins, alcohol at front with hop bitterness at finish.

Mouthfeel: a little slick, little bit chewy, medium to full-bodied.

Drinkability: could drink more than one per session. Alcohol is not too overpowering. Beer seems fairly balanced. I would tend to believe this beer gets better with some age on it. Some time would probably soften some of this beer's harder unrefined edges.

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Photo of bourbonbock
3.46/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured a 12 oz bottle into a clean tulip glass.

A. This beer has a distinct rich reddish mahogany color. It is very clear with some carbonation rising in the glass. The head did not stick around long but there is some still around the ring of the beer.

S. I can smell coffee, raisons, mocha, and perhaps a little bit of yeast.

T. This beer has a coffee flavor followed up with chocolate, mocha, and alcohol.

M. This beer feels thick which is probably a sign of high alcohol content. It is very fizzy on the tongue and dances? its way back toward the throat.

D. I might have to get back on this one but right now i think that I will not be having another one of these right away.

Would be a good beer paired with some food and potentially as a good marinade. Not for any drinking session. This beer is very unique and I am impressed on its shining characteristics in each category.

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Photo of Kendo
3.46/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottled on 10-15-07, consumed in March of 2008.

A: Poured into an Augustijn chalice. Body is dark amber with orangey-red highlights. Small beige head settles fast. Very little apparent carbonation.

S: Sweet and sugary. Brown sugar and candied sugar.

T: Like the nose, the sweetness dominates the taste -- caramel malt and candied sugar, along with brown sugar. Also some fruity sweetness that reminds me of apple skins. Alchohol heat shows up at the back of the sip and down the throat.

M: Medium-bodied in heft, some prickly carbonation and an overall smooth experience.

D: OK. Too sweet for my taste.

Notes: But for the smooth mouthfeel and prickly carbonation, I would not have been shocked if you'd told me this was an English Barleywine. Too sweet for me and not what I expected for the style.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Beer rating: 51.7% out of 100 with 4,300 ratings
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