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Raison D'Être | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

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Raison D'ÊtreRaison D'Être
4,302 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

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,302 |  Reviews: 1,774
Photo of Spider889
3.52/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I first had this beer a year ago and loved it at the time. "Raison D'Etre" being a play on words between the raisin ingrediants and the French, meaning; "reason to be."

The beer smells of sour fruit, muted brown sugar, and mild hops.

The taste is a little all over the place. In some sips I get the flavor of sour grapes and bitter white raisins along with brown sugar and mild alcohol warmth. Other sips are more alcohol foreward and unripened fruit-bitter. Hops are present but muted by unbalanced malt and the alcohol.

The beer is very carbonated, going in tune with the Belgian style I guess. It finishes very bitter and dry on the palate.

I still enjoy this brew, but it's not as good as I remembered it. Now I find myself wishing I had just bought 90 min IPA instead.

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Photo of Kinsman
3.49/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from 12oz bottle into pint glass

A dark mahogany colored ale with red highlights capped by a thin ecru head. Quite bubbly along the walls of the glass.

Sweet and a bit fruity on the nose. Most notable would be raisins and brown sugar. Some of the malt makes its way through with hints of caramel.

Not your typical BSDA on the palate, but not in a bad way. I'm thinking of a medley of fruits on the tongue, like apples and grapes. Belgian yeast seems to be hidden on this, probably covered up by the flavors of the malt.

Pleasant mouthfeel, but a little too carbonated it seems. Overall a decent beer but comes across as being a bit to sweet for me.

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Photo of elcapness17
4.45/5  rDev +21.9%
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.

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Photo of dogger6253
3.87/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Body is a dark brown, little hints of a grape-like color. Lighter at the bottom, with a nice gradient into dark at the top. The head died too fast to really analyze. Little bits of tannish bubbles stick around the top.

Sort of a dark fruit thing going on, a little bit of sweetness mixed in, the smell is nice, warm and inviting. The taste is a little more interesting. A bit of a bite, slightly sour, slightly sweet. A nice dance.

Nice warmth, medium body. Pretty good, but feels like lost potential.

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Photo of DrDemento456
4.45/5  rDev +21.9%
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.

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Photo of metter98
3.58/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured dark mahogany brown with a small head that disappeared quickly, leaving just a few bubbles around the edge of the surface. There's a low- to moderate level of carbonation visible.
S: Dark fruits and sweetness dominate the aroma.
T: Flavors of raisins, dark fruit and brown sugar stand out in the initial taste, followed by the underlying malts and sweetness. The alcohol leaves a bit of heat in the finish, along with a bit of bitterness from the hops.
M: The beer feels medium bodied on the palate and the level of carbonation seems just right and does not make it taste too heavy or syrupy.
D: This is a good beer to sip but I can't see having more than one of these in one session. The alcohol starts hitting you after a while.

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Photo of Akerris
3.22/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Appearance- Deep red/brown. Mahogany ale fits. Three fingers of head.

Aroma- Musty, cheesy and a bit vinty.

Taste- Dried fruit, molasses. The presence of added sugar is undeniable. Metallic notes in aftertaste.

Mouthfeel- Syrupy not as effervecent as expected.

Drinkability- Ok I suppose. It has the Belgian essence but it just feels off. It's not a bad beer but I feel like it's missing something. Dogfish Head seems to throw caution to the wind as their modus opperandi. While this can sometimes be rewarding, it also causes them to occasionally miss the mark.

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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 lovindahops
3.42/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

poured from 12oz bottle into glass

A- dark appearance with virtually no head. Lacing is very stong on sides

S- some sweet malt tones with bananas and raisins. Alcohol arises in the final scents

T- toasted malt flavor and the sweetness of raisins. The alcohol warming on the way down.

M- full bodied with decent carbonation. The alcohol tingles the mouth

D- not really my cup of tea. The raisins do keep it interesting. I think one to two is enough in a sitting because of the alcohol. If you are seeking DFH brews... I would stay with their other offerings.

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Photo of Seanibus
3.5/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I am not normally a Dogfish Head fan, but this is pretty good. Pours a rich coppery brown with a decent head. The aroma is malty and sweetish with some dark fruit and woodiness. The flavor is sweet, a bit earthy, and malty. There is some beet-like sweetness (yeah, I know the beet sugar doesn't impart flavor, but there is a beety quality anyway), a slight phenolic edge, and a carmelly finish. The mouthfeel is relatively thin and flat.

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Photo of Briken
3.92/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

A beautiful clear mahogany with a fine bubbled head with just a few large interlopers. It fades rather quickly to reveal a complex earthy and yeasty aroma. I only wish I had a better sense of smell because there must be more. A deep earthy taste takes center stage with balanced hops and malts taking up the background. Subtle raisin and sweet alcohol rub shoulders with an almost slightly oak taste and combine to make a brandy-like swallow and dry finish. The mouthfeel is the only thing I wasn't too keen on because it was quite foamy until it settles down to give you all it has to offer.

As always, a complex beer that is enjoyable to sip and ponder but not an everyday drinker.
Every once and awhile, you do need to have something to challenge your senses.

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Photo of rfabian
4/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a tumbler it produces a small head with surprisingly solid lacing. The appearance is dark amber and clear. The aroma is mainly of malt with some fruitiness. The taste is sweet with what I swear is the flavor of MD 20-20 coming in. Must be the raisins. The feel is medium bodied with a Belgium ale finish.

This is a smooth and enjoyable dark ale. I grabbed a second one immediately.

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Photo of stoutmasterjames
2.64/5  rDev -27.7%
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 Nutleybeer
3.9/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours with a fine, thin head. Dark, cloudy coppery color. Smells like sweet, dried fruits. You get a wiff of the raisins right away.

First sip, interesting. The sweetness remains. The essence of fruitcake perhaps. The 8% ABV is there, not well hidden, but not overpowering. The taste is a tab on the thick side, almost syrupy-like.

I can't see ever drinking this with dinner. I would say enjoy on its own or with some strong flavored cheese perhaps. This is an interesting and rather unique beer that not everyone will love.

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Photo of kiddynamite920
3.62/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Appears a bit flat and murky, has an amber color and very little head retention.

S: Smells quite nice, nice big malt backbone with all of the essential Belgian yeast characteristics. Bubble gum and banana, good spice note. Some vanilla and caramel.

T: Flavor almost exactly follows the aroma. Malty with the banana and clove type flavors. Quite sweet actually, would like some sort of bitterness here. Banana lingers around for a bit too long.

M: Not full bodied enough, thin. Carbonation seems to completely die by the end of the glass.

D: Eh, most BSDA's aren't highly drinkable, but this beer doesn't make you want to have another. I'll be sure to make my way through this six pack over time and probably won't be revisiting it.

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Photo of TCHopCraver
3.15/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Split a 12 oz. bottle. Reviewed from notes on 3/20/10. Date bottled is 12/4/09.

A: Poured into an oversized wine glass. Had a ruby-mahogany color with a 1 finger head, which retains pretty well. Small, dotty lacing which was accompanied by a viscous film on the glass. I thought this was a very attractive beer.

S: A very interesting combination of scents bombarded my nose. There was a funky-yeasty component, a zesty, coriander, pepper smell, along with some sweeter aromas- raisin, brown sugar, and some plum notes. It actually smells pretty boozy. I would've guessed it was higher than 8%, actually. A bizarre and complex smelling beer, to be sure.

T: Whoa, not really like the smell at all, in a pretty disappointing manner. All of the exciting hints from the aroma are pushed way to the background and the overwhelming flavor is a mineral-wateriness. The coriander and pepper are a relatively prominent player, but that coppery-water taste is just dominating my mouth. The finish is astrigent and coppery.

M: Starts with good carbonation and a decent medium weight, but it ends with a thin, watery feel that is not desirable.

D: No thanks, I will not have another (and I only had half of one). The copper astringency is just too much for my palate to handle. Maybe aging would help this, but I will look elsewhere for examples of this style. I will say this: If the taste had lived up to the smell, I would have given this much higher marks.

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Photo of zebco
3.32/5  rDev -9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A brown-amber color. Very clear. Poured a small head that went away quickly. Faded into a film at the third sip. Smells of roasted malt, coffee, and alcohol. I'm getting a sort of dry mouthfeel. I struggle to put the taste into words. The wife says "burnt toffee". Maybe she's right. The bitterness is pretty high. This beer was middle of the road for me. I'd probably look to grab something else before going with this beer again.

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Photo of steck34
3.81/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Purchased this Raison D'Etre at Wilburs Total Beverage in Fort Collins. I've had this beer a number of times, but this time I am drinking it with two friends who haven't had the pleasure.

The color is a burnt amber with little head retention and light carbonation. It smells sweet and alcoholish as my friend has so elegantly described. The mouthfeel is flirting with a light creamy texture , combined with malty sweetness and an underlining hint of alcohol warmth. The overall taste of the beer was complex, but very easy to drink.

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Photo of CityBoy1986
2.86/5  rDev -21.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into a tulip from a 12 oz. bottle.

The pour is a fairly clear brown with little head and lacing. What little head is there quickly dissipates into just a film.

The nose is mostly of raisin with a hint of nutmeg. The taste adds a bit of wheat with some brown sugar and quite a lot of alcohol, which isn't hidden well at all.

Mouthfeel has a lot of carbonation and some dryness. Drinkability is okay; I wouldn't buy this often even if it were available.

I wouldn't have to be desperate to reach for this, but it wouldn't be a first choice. It's okay, but not great.

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Photo of Jesstyr
3.65/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a McChouffe chalice and enjoyed with a great clam pasta.

The initial impression isn't great - pours with no head, and what is there disappears into a puddle of lace. Look is hazy amber with some reddish hues. Nose really doesn't have much, but some sugary raisin.

Mouth is exceptionally smooth, a soft medium body that just goes down real easy. The taste is a little sugary. subtle hints of raisin. and maybe dates or other dark fruits. Belgian sugars and definite maltiness in the finish. Overall this is a fairly balanced, yet not overly enjoyable drink. Just a nice easy to drink starter-Belgian strong dark ale.

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Photo of sisuspeed
3.31/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bottled 10/21/09
Poured into a tulip glass

Raison D'Etre pours a dark, reddish-brown with just less than a finger of white head on top. Small patches of lacing.

Lots of earthy notes on the nose. Caramel malts, raisins, almost smells like it has some vegetable notes. Touch of wood. Would be nice if the aroma were a little stronger.

Taste is malty with bits of fruit, mostly grapes and raisins. A faint smokey presence, mixed with some light wood. Has some funky sugary flavors that must be from the beet sugar. Just a touch of alcohol, but basically unnoticeable. Malts are caramel like and a bit bready. Slightly astringent on the finish with some sugar.

Mouthfeel is pretty good for a Belgian Ale. Smooth, almost creamy body with ample carbonation. A small trace of warming alcohol.

Drinkability is about average. Nothing about the beer really draws me back to the glass, but the body is nice and the flavor has some subtle intricacies that move it beyond the average beer. ABV pushes the drinkability somewhat, but finishing a bottle is no problem.

Overall, this is a pretty decent brew from Dogfish Head. Decent flavor and body, but the beer leaves you wanting something more, especially when you consider some of the other Dogfish Head brews like World Wide Stout and Burton Baton. I probably won't be picking this up again, but if you haven't tried it, its worth checking out.

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Photo of DFHAle
3.94/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Amber color with little head and spotty lacing

S - Not much in terms of aroma with this beer

T - Moderate carbonation with a slight sweetness on the finish. Minimal aftertaste.

M - Light to medium bodied

D - The finish is sweet with little to no aftertaste.

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Photo of obywan59
2.8/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a deep mahogany like the bottle says. 1 1/2 finger head that quickly dissipates.

Smells of sweet raisins. Distinctive Belgian aroma as well. A bit of coffee.

Burnt, sweet, and burn (from the alcohol). Not much subtlety here. A little tartness. Did I mention burnt?

Moderate mouthfeel. It helps keep that burnt flavor on the tongue.

A bit tough to drink until the 8.0 ABV kicks in. I'd have been upset if this had been a only a 4.0.

In the end, it's the ABV that saves this beer. By the end of the first glass, your'e only just a bit wistful that there isn't more flavor.

This knocks off Delirium Noel as the least favorite of the BSDAs that I've sampled this season, but I still enjoyed it in the end. It's way better than Guiness Draught in a can.

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Photo of SeasonalBrew
3.12/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured a 12 oz. bottle into a tulip glass

A: Pours a deep mahogany with only a quarter-inch cream colored head that quickly dissapates. Nice flow of bubbles from center of the bottom of the glass, but still just an overall average presentation.

S: Has a very strong sweet smell to it; grapes/raisins, brown sugar. I can sense some spice in it, too; guessing nutmeg or allspice.

T: Right away it hits you with a strong bite from the alcohol, followed by the sweetness from the sugar and malts. It finishes with a bitter taste from the alcohol and hops. Something just seems to be missing with this taste. The sweetness is there, but it doesn't mask the bitterness from the alcohol very well. Usually I don't mind a bite from the alcohol, but it's very off-putting with this beer.

M: Sense lots of carbonation, which takes away from the smoothness a bit. Very dry and bitter finish. Once again, just average.

D: I didn't find myself wanting more once I finished it. I enjoyed the sweetness, but felt it was missing a nice balance the whole way through.

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Photo of puboflyons
3.88/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the 12 fl. oz. bottle on March 9, 2010. The color is an attractive mahogany amber with about three-quarters of an inch of beige=, foamy head. It never quite goes away. The aroma is a pleasing enough mixture of raisins, malts, and yeast but I also get a bit of alcohol.The taste is bitter and sweet with a thin but noted dry hoppy ending. Not a bad beer altogether except for that bit of alcohol scent.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Beer rating: 3.65 out of 5 with 4,302 ratings
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