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 Hendy011
3.26/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - one finger's head, amber brown.
S - sweet, like grapes, fruity smell.
T - sort of smoky, aftertaste smoky, dry, alcohol dominates aftertaste.
F - optimal light carbonation, a bit coarse.
O - decent, was recommended but wouldn't re-recommend. It's a bit smoky, very dark, which is just not my preference in ales.

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Photo of AmitC
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle dated 7/27 2012. Poured from a 12 oz bottle into snifter.

One finger thick off white colored head that dissipates fast. Non-existent lacing. Mahogany colored. (Amber copper with ruby hints). Some bubbles. Very hazy. The lower part of the beer formed a differently colored thick layer of wooden copper color but then mixed well with the rest of the stuff.

Smell :Typical fruity smell expected of a Belgian ale with some mild alcohol. Moderate to low carbonation. Some caramel. Good aroma overall.

Taste: Malt forward with a lot of Belgian style finish. Very fruity and refreshing with some different beet like taste. Slightly sweet. Dry finish. Almost no hops.

Mouth feel: Low on carbonation. Some yeast presence makes it silky. Medium feel. No astringency.

Style Rate: 4
Personal Rate: 4

A good brew overall. I like it so far, as this is my first belgian strong dark ale. Two others from Unibroue are waiting in the fridge.

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Photo of sirdrinkwell
3.33/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A-Poured into a pint glass, Raison D'Être is more a honey amber than mahogany , with moderate head that quickly disappears.

S-the nose is bready, with an undercurrent of earthy dark fruit. Yeast dominates.

T-Tartness of raisin and plum are more evident as I drink, with a spicy yeast undertone. There is a bit of sugary sweetness but it is mitigated by the tartness and spice.

M-Medium body, rich .... There's also a tarty aftertaste.

O-I have yet to truly dislike anything from DFH, but at the same time I have yet to encounter anything anything they make that truly appeals to me. In that sense, and given all the DFH hype that is out there, I find this to be another underwhelming brew, and I find it hard to believe that anyone could have named this "American Beer of the Year" in any year. As a Belgian Dark, in particular, this is not something I would seek out again.


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Photo of AlCaponeJunior
3.15/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The first time I tried this beer, I didn't much like it. Now I've had it again and I am beginning to think that the first bottle I got was somehow old or had been poorly kept. I like it a lot better now than my prior review indicated. Thus, I'm doing a completely new review on this one, and changing the scores.

Brown with amber notes and clear. One finger head and so-so lace.

Definitely a bubblegum component to the aroma. Fruity and a little spicy, with some maltiness.

Flavor is more bready and toasted malty but still has some bubblegum character, a little spiciness, and some raisiny fruitiness. Alcohol is pretty noticeable. A bit muddled and chaotic.

Body is slick and thick, carbonation is pretty low, and alcohol is noticeable, moreso than it should be for an 8% beer.

Overall it's a beer in chaos, but it's not bad. I really don't think this fits the Belgian strong dark ale category nearly as well as it would fit the brown ale category, except for perhaps the yeast. But even then, the usual Belgian notes just aren't there to the extent that you'd expect.

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

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

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Photo of williamjbauer
3.38/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled, served in a weizen glass

Clear mahogany with 1 finger thin bubbly khaki head with a head that quickly fades minimal stringy lacing and a touch of alcohol legs.

Mild aroma of green raisins, alcohol, earthy malt

Initial flavor is bready, toasted malts, followed by a weird sour transition that floods my palate and confuses me a bit, raisins, green apple, with very presence booze taste and warming at the back palate. Very mild herbal and earthy hops near the end. Never very sweet. Mild bitter finish

Medium body, moderate carbonation, wet mouthfeel

Overall this beer didn't not impress me, I was really hoping the raisins or malt would be highlighted but overall I didn't enjoy the taste from beginning to end and was just left a bit confused at the inspiration for this brew. The alcohol is out of balance and nothing in the flavor profile of the beer left me wanting to try more.

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Photo of cyclonece09
3.8/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter. Pours a nice deep maroon color with a small white head that dissipates quickly but leaves a little lacing. Smells of fruit dominated by raisins. Tastes of raisins and slight grape taste with some wine-like hints. Beer is carbonated correctly, goes down smooth with only a slight taste of fruit aftertaste. Overall, a very good beer.

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Photo of DannyHartman
3.92/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

As I pour a 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass, a 1.5-inch tan-colored head appears atop a beautiful mahogany reddish/brown brew.... The head vanishes quickly with the slightest retention, leaving hardly no lacing.

I take a whiff and get upfront sweet dark fruits like that of raisin, dates, and grapes.... There are Belgian yeast notes with a little tartiness, as well.

While drinking, I taste the same as the nose with plum, raisin, and grapes.... There's also a sweet and spicy Belgian yeast taste on the back.

This is a medium-bodied brew with little carbonation.... Quite crisp with an oily feel to it.... There's also a tarty aftertaste.

Overall, Dogfish Head is one of my favorite American breweries.... I love everything they put out.... To be "American Beer of the Year", though.... C'mon.... I enjoy much of their other brews as much as, or more than, this particular one.... Perhaps, it's because I LOVE Belgian beers so much, and they represent this as a Belgian style.... It is still a delicious brew, because it has the taste of a "wine-beer".... I do like this beer.

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Photo of LeRose
4.42/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle. Great amber color, nice tan head decent lacing. Get the yeast and raisins/grape aromas right up front. Really tasty - clean, lots of flavor, maybe a little caramel or coffee hint to it. Love the grape/raisin flavor and find this a refreshing beer despite the 8% ABV. Nice sweetness/white wine thing happening. I can see where it could be polarizing with the love/hate thing going on, but I am in the love it category for sure. I bought a few more bottles.

Review from notes

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Photo of axeman9182
3.71/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle, dated 7/20/12. It was poured into my Neighbor of the Beast tulip.

Raison D'Etre pours a fairly translucent ruby red, with a good amount of lighter red highlights. Maybe a finger and half of cream colored foam rises up atop the beer. Head retention is alright, and lacing is fairly disappointing/nonexistent. The nose is simply wonderful. Raisin centric dark fruits lead the charge, braced by a firm supporting aroma of brown sugar. A light clove note completes the picture. The flavor profile doesn't quite follow that layout, to somewhat ill effect. Everything starts out fine, with the raisins, plums, and figs taking the spotlight, but leaving some room for the brown sugar. The finish though is pretty harsh. I don't know if the phenols are just too intense, or there's some unnecessary hop bitterness exacerbating them, but the beer just doesn't close nearly as smoothly as it should. The mouthfeel is decent, with a nice, vibrant carbonation. The body is just a little bit full, but it's a close thing. Raison D'Etre is another solid offering from Dogfish Head.

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Photo of Bowdoinbeerboy
3.42/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured with no head whatsoever and only minimal lacing.

This beer has a light, sweet smell, almost like dates.

For an 8% ABV beer this one is VERY well balanced, the alcohol is really well hidden and is not over-powering. Dark malty notes are the defining feature here, some mild candied fruit, fairly light.

This beer is a little light in this regard, almost watery. Palate coverage is poor and the flavor fades as soon as you swallow.

Not a bad beer overrall, it is an interesting flavor with its date-like sweetness and almost no hop notes, not sure I'd buy it again.

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Photo of cracgor
3.19/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Not as good as I expected. The beer has a weak head that disappeared too quickly. The smell and flair. was hinting at a barrel aged quality. Overall-it was kind of average and I would not be too exited about it in the future. The beer is not that drinkable.

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Photo of andrewjraab
3.35/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Dark rich mahogany brown with reddish tints. Creamy white head. Not much head retention to speak of.

S - Caramel, malty, sweet fruits, grapes.

T - Sweet and malty up front, followed by a strong yeasty flavor at the back end. Something all together odd about this brew, but all in all it is actually smooth to drink for the higher alcohol content.

O - This was a one and done novelty for me. "Meh" all around.

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Photo of CloudStrife
3.67/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a snifter. Bottled On: 7/28/12

A: Pours a slightly hazy mahogany like the bottle says. A 1 finger white head dissapates after a minute. Visible carbonation.

S: A blend of a yeasty beglain and dark fruits, raisin and fig. Almost like a moldy malt characteristic.

T: Malt forward with a fermenty grape/raison. Yeasty banana in the background.

M: Full bodied creaminess. Silky. Pretty easy drinking.

Overall not a bad beer but not something I would seek out again.

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Photo of Jadjunk
3.2/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Picked up a sixer of this in July after enjoying it on tap. It is one of Dogfish Head's staple year rounds in the lineup. A six pack sets one back roughly $10. The label states that Raison D'Être is "A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beet sugars, green raisins & a sense of purpose". The beer is brewed in the the style of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Bottled on 5/03/12, shy of 6 months from date.

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle to my Dogfish Head Signature glass. Served at 49º Fahrenheit.

(Appearance) Pours a crisp bronze cream head with an average retention at best and a very fizzy texture. Body color is a deep mahogany red with abundant carbonation. Appearance is decent, although the head quality falls short. 3

(Smell) Tart fruits, belgian sugars, light spicy cinnamon bread and medium potent alcohol tones. Not as enjoyable as the first time I smelled it, it's components are a bit busy but they don't all complement each other. There's some heat from the alcohol and a pleasing belgian syrup background. I'm not sure if the aromas are muddled due to the age of the drink or if it's bottle-pertinent, but the aroma isn't as pleasing this time around. 3

(Taste) Light syrup bready malt front with a faint spice and alcohol on the smoky finish. Fruit tones bring a mild tartness to the beer. There is a bit of heat from the alcohol and not all of the flavors gel well in this beer. With a more flavorful and substantial malt body the end result may round out better. Overall, it's not the shining star of Dogfish's repertoire, but it's drinkable. 3.5

(Mouthfeel) Texture is quite light, carbonation is faint with a slick texture. Body is light for Belgian Strong Darks and medium overall. Alcohol presence is medium. The texture is a bit underwhelming. It shouldn't be spritely crisp but a little more air could help shadow some of the alcohol and compliment the delicate fruit tones. 3

(Overall) I found this much less impressive the second time around. It goes a bit too shallow on the body, a little too slick on the texture and a bit too harsh on the alcohol makes the drink less enjoyable than it should be. I'd recommend drinking this as fresh as possible and preferably on tap for the most enjoyable experience. 3

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery's
Raison D'Être

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Photo of veinless
2.81/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Pours a crystal clear, dark amber with a thin, quickly dissipating head that left no lacing at all. Looks borderline watery to me.

Smells of sweet fruit, with dates and raisins coming to mind the most. A sugary note pervades the aroma all the way through. Almost like a fruit-jam type smell.

Taste is thankfully not as pungently sweet at the front, with the raisins a nice, semi-sweet flavor. Malts come out after initial taste to sweeten the deal, though not in a way I like. Tiny bit of date character that resembles a sweet rind of a citrus fruit (very strange, but think about it). Alcohol offers its own flavor as well with a bit of warmth. Sourness arrives as the beer warms.

Mouthfeel is quite thin and bubbly, with a corrosive element to it. Feels a little bit too much like pop. Drinkability saved from disaster by the late-arriving sourness, but still isn't great. Overall it's an interesting beer, but not one I particularly enjoy.

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Photo of MRclean
4.04/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dogfish Head
Raison D’Etre

Vessel: 12oz. bottle poured into a tulip glass

A: Pours a reddish brown with one finger of slightly off-white head. The head dissipates slowly and will be gone ½ way through the beer.

S: Not a strong aroma, has slight earthy and bread note.

T: Nice richness with sweet caramel notes. This beer has a medium body and is very drinkable. Frankly, it is a bit difficult to describe, but it is enjoyable for sure.

M: Smooth almost creamy.

I recommend trying this beer.

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Photo of Brubaker
3.88/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Drank this late last night down by the fire. So i'm do this review from memory and expert witnesses.

A- Poured nicely to a beautiful clear red-amber (mahogany). The head was 2 fingers in size and lasted a little while before dropping to a nice lacing.

S- Sweet with dark sugars. pleasant.

T- Very sweet. Good body. There's an earthy tone i assume comes from the beats and a dark sweet that must come from the raisins. The bitter shows up after that to clear away some of the sweetness. Leaving a light but clean earthy fruity taste that lingers away.

M- Smooth feel with a fine texture. Medium in body.

O- Very enjoyable beer. I would like it for high Summer or around a smoky fire in Winter.

Would Drink
Would Buy
Wouldn't Make

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Photo of dontpanic5
2.82/5  rDev -23%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

It pours a muddy amber with barely any head. In the nose it's fruity, bananas are what I immediately thought of, and there's the smell of chewy malts. The taste is dominated by the strange taste of beets. Off the bat I'm not really a fan. The deep malt taste isn't offensive but it can't do much to save this beer from my judgement. It has a nice carbonation and a light body. Overall I can't say I'm really enjoying this beer at all. That's Dogfish Head for you, it can be really hit or miss!

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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.

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Photo of Oakenator
3.95/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This raison beer doesn't disappoint - lives up to its name. Belgian strength and flavor. Pours a deep amber with a decent head at pour that disappates. Nose is strong raisons and some alcohol despite its 8% ABV. Sweeter malts linger on the back end and some sour raison flavor on the front. This beer is about a year old and has aged decently despite its middle ABV (have also had it fresh and consistent with my memory).

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Photo of jimilayne
2.75/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I'm a huge fan of Dogfish Head and this is the first 'swing and a miss' I've had from them. There's just too much going on here. I'm not sure exactly what the goal was with the taste but it confused the H out of me. It's just not up to par with the rest of their fine products that I've had (60, 90, 120 min IPAs, Bitches Brew, Hellhound Ale, Pearl Jam Twenty Ale).

Drank a few out of the bottle and really don't have much to say. Too spicy and while the raisins come through, they're not balanced well enough with anything else to bring out the best of them.

Had to try it on principle but won't be going back.

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Photo of Pjev11
3.7/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark copper pour, semi translucent. Half inch off white head that leaves quickly, no lacing to speak of. Sweet in the nose. Bold flavors on the first sip, slightly alcoholic but well balanced. Definitely get that raisin in the taste and the nose.

A nice different flavorful ale from DFH. They often go too far with their flavor profiles but this one works for me.

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Photo of kartoffel
4.37/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is a really good beer for the style and would no doubt be strange to most. It is a bit thin and fruity but for a Belgian style it really hits the spot with it's American craft brew twists. It does taste a bit wild and the smell is awesome. I think it would be better as a sour beer but it's very complex as is.

From a bottle into a tulip/snifter. Low easily fading head typical of some true Belgian beers.
A: looks great like a sour red and even smells like it could be one but it does look great in a glass
S: smells phenomenal. Fruity with a hint of that Russian imperial stout smell but very subdued.
T: Tastes great if you don't expect it to be something else. It is a great saison/farmhouse with a Belgian roots and an American twist.
M: it is thin but not hot or alcohol at all comes off as about 5.5% in the mouth. Very drinkable even chug-able but I wouldn't recommend. The beer does have lacing but very little thin head more like juice but not in a bad way still without a doubt 4.5/5 beer.

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Photo of confer
3.4/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Just a plain muddy water brown with no head whatsoever.
Smell like a boozy Belgian.
Taste is much better than the smell. Definitely has a dark fruit finish.
Very watery for the style and the abv.
I will have to revisit this later , since I'm not sure I am giving it a fair rating, but I was surely underwhelmed.

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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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