Raison D'Être | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

1,772 Reviews
Read the review
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 1,772 | Ratings: 4,288
Photo of schoolboy
4.5/5  rDev +23%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I have also had this bottle and disliked it. On tap it is a totally different drink - lovely. Somehow, what I got a six pack of bottles and it just wasn't very good, but on tap I loved this. And I am not a fan of heavy flavors but I am a fan of Belgians. The raisin taste is all over it.

I can't recommend the bottle, but I do recommend trying a glass of this at the bar. Nice

 377 characters

Photo of Dwtucker90
4.49/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed from a bottle and out of a North Coast Brewing tulip glass. Beer bottle on 2/19/13 and drank on 5/1/13.

Look: The color is a deep cherry wood/mahogany. Can't see through it. Only thing really lacking here is a nice head. It poured with only about 2 centimeters of white head which quickly dissipated.

Smell: some spicy alcohol esters. Mild dark fruits with that typical Belgian yeast and malt nose. Nice but not a very strong nose. Have to really look for the nose on this one until it warms and opens up. Once you let that happen it is very pleasant.

Taste: lots of Belgian yeast and malt similar to most strong Belgian beers. A good bit of warming alcohol which is spicy in the front and warming going down. Dark and sweet fruits and picking up some of that green grape after taste that lingers and sticks to your mouth.

Mouthfeel: not much to the head but this beer's carbonation really comes through once you get it into your mouth. Just the way I like my strong Belgians, slick but bubbly and spicy.

Overall: Not my favorite of the style but an interesting and delicious entrance by Dogfish Head. Definitely worth trying and enjoying.

 1,152 characters

Photo of AEK
4.48/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

355ml brown bottle poured into a Delirium Tremens snifter.

A. Orange-red coloured beer topped by an off-white pillowy head.

S. Wine, plums and juicy malt.

T. Peppery, spicy and alcohol soaked fruit.

M. Full bodied, slightly chewy.

D. Drinks much stronger than an 8% ABV beer, having said that it is very drinkable indeed. Love its warming character.

 354 characters

Photo of Teeter
4.48/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From a 12oz. bottle into a La Fin Du Monde tulip glass.

A-After a brisk pour a small and quick to disapate head apeared. Aside from the lackluster head the color is beautiful amber/ruby.

S-The aroma of seasoned grape and well fermented I might add has my mouth watering.

T-This is in a taste catagory all it's own. Although definately beer it has an almost burgandy or port wine flavor but without that tart dry thing that most wine seems to have.

M-Unexpectedly creamy in spite of the carbonation. It seems to find away of touching every part of my mouth.

D-I find it verry drinkable. Not so much for session.

I've been told this is excellent as a steak marinade. Although I havn't used it myself as of yet I can see how it could work.

My only negative comment on this product would be the lacking head and there is no lacing to speak of.

 848 characters

Photo of jbone78
4.48/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is one of my all time favorites. I drink this beer once a month or so. And every time I buy it makes wonder why I don't buy it more often.

A- Great! Pours just as the label says, Mahogany. Small head that leaves quickly. But the beer is clear.
S- Not alot to smell. You get a whif of hops and some very nice toasty malts, but you really have to try.
T- Very complex, I taste toasted malts, Belgian sugars and the hop flavor is mild. I guess the raisons are in there somewhere? My guess, the raisons are in the malty/sugary flavors? Very complex for me.
M- Mildly carbonated.
D- This is the best part. This beer is very drinkable for me. I am a fan of sweet Belgian beers and this one I could drink several in one sitting.

Great beer, in my book,

 762 characters

Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.48/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Merriam-Webster defines mahogany as simply a reddish-brown. It's a good call on the color, I got no problem with it. No head when poured in typical fashion into a pint glass. Slightly cloudy and even a strand of suspended yeast when the last few drops were poured in a few moments ago.

Aroma has lots of malt and raisins with a side of yeast. Sweet smelling enough that if it were daytime and I were outside, those damn fruit flies would be taking headers into my glass and I'd end up drinking their dumb ass.

Taste is a mix of malt, raisins, and a certain 'greenness' and woodiness. Alcohol is hidden quite well when cold and only moderately more prevalent at room temps. Snappy, yeasty, perhaps even cinnamony finish. I remember that flavor from opening night at Hofbrauhaus Newport with the Weizen, I think the yeast was very rich that night and hasn't been as strong since :-(
Hats off to the brewer for his generous proportions of ingredients. Progressing into the beer, the raisiny component develops some clove character as well.

Mouthfeel is heavier than average, but not overdone. Leaves a firm malty sweet residue in the mouth, maltheads will enjoy this beer.

I think drinkability has two factors, 1) does the alcohol level/presence invite me to enjoy a 2nd, 3rd, 4th?, and 2) is the taste good enough to warrant another round, and another? Raison D'Etre does a great job on both points, I would drink these all night, probably max out at 5, then just switch to water, call a cab, whatever...

Overall, it's not it my top *top* list, but among the leaders in my 'Above Average' category.

 1,612 characters

Photo of taez555
4.48/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer poured a deep clear mahogany body with a small tan head.

The nose had some defiantly dark sugary smells. Belgian yeast, phenols, some light spice, and hints of fruit. By the name you could guess it'd be raisins, but I found the smell to be a little more subdued not really giving a defined fruit smell.

The taste was very nice. Fully bodied and very malty. Light carbonation. Soft caramel. Soft fruit flavors, green raisin, even hints of grass. There was a firm bitterness and earth hop flavor, but they sat evenly with the malt. It had an almost creamy texture but at the same time was very smooth. It ended slightly bitter and malty, but died off rather quickly.

This is a very interesting beer because it's not exactly trying to be any one style. It's very malty, raisiny, and has the belgian yeast flavor, but isn't trying to be a belgian. It's just a smooth, wonderfully flavorful, malty, fruity, balanced beer that's addicting to drink. A must try.

 975 characters

Photo of superswing123
4.48/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Here D-Fish has created another outstanding beverage for us. Smooth, malty and flavorful, time after time.

Appearance: Fine copper/gold color into a 12 ounce tumbler. Some moderate lacing around a quickly diminishing head of 1-2 fingers. With a few swills and tumbilng, the head restores to 1 inch. Very appetizing and appealing.

Aroma (Smell): Smokey, deep and full of good brew, something you want to dig into to. A bit of the alcohol comes through but not all that heavy. This one won't kick you too bad. But don't dirve anything but the lawnmower, buddy, after two or more.

You'll get busted, flat out.

(Hate those DWI laws...)

Taste; Full-bodied, rich and infused with the raisens and a good deal of hops. A bit malty, barley and spices coming through. This is a complex brew worthy of consideration...

Flavor: Full of all that can be good. Lively, vervacious, outstanding.

Drinkability: Great. I could have several several of these and still enjoy the next or send out for more.

Here's a fine craft-brewed ale from Dogfish, who has become my favorite, especially since the 120 pale ale the other nite....these folks really know what their doing with beer.

Just hope they keep it up.


 1,208 characters

Photo of Tolnik
4.47/5  rDev +22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured this dark ruby brown beer into a pint glass. The head that was poured into the pint glass was a good half an inch of head. It then reduced down to faint wisps of lacing. The aroma of smell that wafts from this beer is that of a malt and raisin. The taste follows suit in the taste but follows a sweeter taste of raison. Yet there is also a hint of plum taste as well. Overall a great beer by the brewers of Dogfish Head.

 427 characters

Photo of BEERchitect
4.47/5  rDev +22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This brewery is incapable of brewing a bad batch. I passed on this beer for a while because I didn't think that I would fully appreciate it. I was wrong. An extremely complex and fruitful beer. Pours with a medium to high viscocity. Brown with some burgundy and purple violet tones. Tan / burgundy head falls to a trace, laces well, nice oily cling to the glass. Smells of cocoa, deep dark friuts, all hidden behind a malt base. Lightly hopped and tart. Tastes fruity sweet with pruned, dates, raisons, figs. All the goodness that you'd like from these fruits with only a mild tartness. A red wine-like muskiness in the body. Silky smooth rich body that nicely fades into the finish. Very consistant flow down the throat. Mild cherries show up in the finish. Mildly drying and mildly sweet. Dangerously easy to drink. I don't particularly like dark fruits, but I love the beers that exhibit their flavors--go figure.

 916 characters

Photo of beergeek279
4.47/5  rDev +22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served as a sample at the Penn Festival. The color was dark amber with a bit of head. The smell was sweet, with a hint of malt. The taste was very sweet, with hints of the raisons. The mouthfeel was fairly smooth, and the alcohol wasn't apparent at all. This is definitely a beer I'd have several of.

This is Dogfish Head's attempt to do a Dubbel. I enjoyed this one and think that it's one of the better Belgian-styles produced in America, and hope to see DFH do more!

 472 characters

Photo of PorterLambic
4.47/5  rDev +22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a slightly opaque orange-copper color with a 1 1/2", tight, cream colored head that drops slowly & evenly to a thick film and leaves good lacing..
Smell is malty, fruity (orange & raisin) & spice. A wonderful pleasure for the nose.
Taste is malty, fruity (apple/orange/raisin), hops (light & late), very complex, an extremely tasty brew.
Mouthfeel is very smooth, full bodied, warms the throat nicely without any harshness from the alcohol.
Drinkability is nearly as high as it can get. Often a beer with this much alcohol can be hard to drink more than one of, but this libation does not suffer that problem. I recommend this beer without any reservations.

 667 characters

Photo of greg202stewart
4.47/5  rDev +22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I really liked this beer. It's a red color with no head. Its very smooth and you can taste the mahogany and raisin. I feel like Ron Burgundy, my beer smells of rich mahogany. This is one of the best American ales I've had with a great balance of malt, hop, raisin and yes mahogany. Surpised it's rated so low. I think it's one of the more mild DFH offerings, but so what not everything is extreme

 396 characters

Photo of farrago
4.46/5  rDev +21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Clear brown-amber color with minimal effervescence, average head foam, dark orange rims. Roasted dark chocolate and coffee in the nose, the raisin and dried fruit character comes through clearly, texture is smooth and malty without giving up a fresh and lively feel. Medium-bodied, sweet and sugary with rum raisin, plum, molasses and candied orange flavors. Heavy, not in a pure weight sense per se, just clings like syrup. Not much carbonation, this allows the flavors to all sink in completely. Notes of cinnamon mulled cider. Not for everyone but very captivating.

 568 characters

Photo of danriverbrew
4.46/5  rDev +21.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

APPEARANCE: A beautiful deep deep gold color with a good half inch head.

SMELL: This is one thing that I was alittle disapointed in. While it had a nice sweet kind of nutty smell, it wasn't very strong. Not something that really roused the couriosity.

TASTE: A fantastic sweet mahogany taste, with what I detect is a little smokey note.

MOUTHFEEL: An awesome lingering taste that reminded me of the smoke from a camp fire. That rustic feel. At the end alittle spice note, not sure of the ingrediant. A fantastic balance.

DRINKABILITY: Not so much a casual drink but a great compliment to a meal. Something heavy like venison.


 652 characters

Photo of NiceGuyMike
4.45/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Dark amber with medium light tan head. Head clings to the side in a desparate attempt for survival, but is eventually beaten down. Light lacing remains as memorial. Smells a bit of figs, molassas (specifically brown sugar) and I guess rasins. Tastes similar with no one flavor dominating (well..perhaps the brown sugar stands out). Belgian yeast give it that Belgian quality of flavor, but again, not overpowering. Next to Allagash Odyssey I'll say this is the best Belgian Strong Dark Ale I've had. Full bodied with decent carbonation. So enjoyable, something to drink slowly and one to enjoy at home or without the need to drive.

Very sweet...no...extremely sweet, but in a good way. Dangerously easy to drink. Strong alcohol sneaks up on you easy. I went through two bottles without breaking a sweat early Thanksgiving afternoon. Wow, I must admit it hit me hard a few minutes after I finished the second bottle.

 918 characters

Photo of DrDemento456
4.45/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Deep amber color with head the quickly disappears.
S - Smells of dark fruit an alcohol
T - Sweet raisin taste followed by bitter raisin taste which may have been from the grapefruit hops. Interesting
M - Really thin for 8 percent and smooth.
D - Man this is weird but I think this is the first dogfish head I actually liked! I had the 90 back in the day and may have it again because it was undrinkable and the peach flavor sour was a drain pour. Really solid beer and was impressed.

 489 characters

Photo of Andy
4.45/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Very different on tap than in the bottle. Here is a bottle review: Pours with a quickly dissipating head. Dark ruby color. Aroma is big alcohol, sweet sugar, and some nutty like cashew with spicy, yeasty hints. Complex flavor, sometimes mellow, with deep peppery hints and some yeast bite. Finish is smoky like true scotch ales.

 334 characters

Photo of Shonkers
4.45/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is my first review, so excuse me while I pop my cherry....

The other disclaimer here is that I'm a fanboy of Dogfish Head beers--I love their offerings, I love their style, I love their off-centered theme....

Drinking from a Tulip glass after pouring from a bottle bought in Dayton, Ohio for the princely sum of $9.99/six pack.

Color is a beautiful cherrywood hue, minimal head due to my insistence that beer should be imbibed at temperatures near freezing (sue me).

Smell reminds me of molasses.

Taste is almost overly sweet, but then again, I like sweet. Molasses, with a following bite of alcohol.

Mouthfeel is near perfect. Daddy likes.

In addition to liking cold beer, I like high alcohol content. I'm in the military, and I like my beers like I like my women: intoxicating. Sessionable? Hells yes!

 815 characters

Photo of elcapness17
4.45/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is a great beer. 8% abv, but it drinks very easily. It has a very unique flavor, and as an earlier person noted, the taste is that of a dark fruit. You can definitely taste the green raisins and beet sugars, but it's rounded off nicely with a bit of astringency. It gets more drinkable as it warms, and although the smell isn't phenomenal it is certainly not bad. I would recommend this if you are looking for something unique. I have a feeling that I could drink a six pack of these in one night, which is foreboding in the best way.

 539 characters

Photo of clabaugh
4.44/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Clear cherry with brown hues. Pasty white head that dissipates rapidly. Lacing is watery and impermanent.

Smell: Oak bark, roasted nuts. Roasty, roasty, roasty. Bready malts, honey, and some coffee bean. Vinous fruits reflecting a steady hop presence.

Taste: Baked bread, syrup, and more grape than raisin. Spice and sweetness. Some floral hops. The malts are dominant, with the hops being a sidenote. Coriander, nutmeg.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and lightly syrupy. Displayed a thickishly rich body. A lot of zest on the tongue.

Drinkability: Despite the high ABV, this proved to be a very drinkable beer. Rich, often quizical taste that really keeps you guessing. Fine craftsmanship. Highly recommended.

 722 characters

Photo of cooter
4.43/5  rDev +21%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Truly a fine, fine beer. Its head is a thing of poetry: ephemeral, shifting, wispy and sensuous. Its height and hue actually varies across the surface; with darker, greener, browner, and more olive-green spots alternating across the pocked landscape of foam.

I've tried this beer and been disappointed with its smell...but today it is excellent. Alcohol, esthers, raisins, cherries, berries, raspberries, faint citrus, and more that my humble nose can't make out. NOTE: I believe my failures with this beer have been due to serving it in a pint glass--do not do this! Instead, use a goblet.

Feels smooth yet textured on the tongue, with no bitterness whatever. Creamy in both mouthfeel and flavor. Sharp, like brie, and subtle. Smoky--literally, tastes like good cigar smoke.

Excellent with olives, chicken, and savory flavors.

 837 characters

Photo of ExMachina1
4.43/5  rDev +21%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I bought this beer before realizing that it had FRUIT in it. Normally, I avoid fruit-containing beers as, said fruit tends to dominate the character of the beer and, frankly, if I wanted fruit I'd have bought a peach.

However, the investment in the six pack (and it IS and investment!) warranted a tasting and I was flabbergasted by the result. Simply put, this beer is exceptional.

Color is as described (by Dogfish Head), ie, mahogany. It's also got a good dose of protein in the head and the lacing hangs around for the duration. Beer is crystal clear.

Aroma is mysterious but very rich. I think the last reviewer got it right when he said that if he hadn't known that there were raisins in the beer, he wouldn't have know what was going on here. As it is, the beer smells inviting, al beit a bit intimidating. After all, who's well-versed in the quaffing of dried fruit?!?

The flavor is great. Complex, like a (barley) wine though w/o the alcohol punch. Very deep.

Finish is clean. There's a noticeable sticky sweetness on the lips, but nothing cloying on the palate. Other than that, you are simply left with the memories of the fruit, and a nagginig invitation to take another sip.

Overall, a singular and outstanding beer!


PS, Brothers, what the hell were you drinking? (cuz it certainly wasn't THIS beer!)

 1,327 characters

Photo of Radome
4.43/5  rDev +21%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Tasted on tap at DFH Alehouse in Falls Church, VA.

A - Deep amber to red. Very clear. Off-white head lasts in a thin layer. Some lacing.

S - Noble hops and bready malt, almost like a Dopplebock aroma. However there is an unusual edge to the smell that foreshadows sweetness and alcohol.

T - Malt hits first, mixed with moderate noble hops. Then brown sugar, plums, raisins and licorice come in. The flavor keeps lingering and changing long after the swallow.

M - Light to moderate body, hops bitterness is moderate but blends in well. Alcohol well-hidden.

D - Very complex and shifting flavors. A great sipper that is better even than the sum of its outstanding parts. Almost like a Belgian abbey ale, but hops and body give a lighter and easier-drinking impression. I have enjoyed this beer from the bottle, but on tap its true genius comes out.

 851 characters

Photo of JamesBerry
4.43/5  rDev +21%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

This came out a thick reddish brown, topped with a strong head. Full, creamy mouthfeel, sweet and malty taste with hints of raisins and pineapple in the aroma. No noticeable traces of alcohol in the taste, despite its high abv. Overall, a wonderful beer that keeps pulling me back to it time and time again.

 307 characters

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

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.