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 erikjon
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a beautiful brownish-red color with a thin, bubbly head. Has a very appealing sweet malty smell to it. It drinks very easily and has a great malted mouthfeel. The head disappears quickly, and there was virtually no lacing on the glass. The finish is a little sweeter than I normally like, but it has good substance behind it that helps it stand up on its own. I will definitely seek this one out again, and I would recommend you do the same!

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Photo of keaston
3.13/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A: poured a very nice dark amber/ruby color with a cream-tan head that reduced to a thin lace very quickly. Appearance is easily this beer's strong point.

S: sweet and rich. This smells like a dopplebock brewed with raisins... I guess that must be the Belgian beet sugars. Interesting but a little bit overpowering.

T/M: This beer feels very heavy, almost syrupy. Raisins and an unusual sweetness that is not malt are the first and most prominent flavors(once again probably those beet sugars), followed by a harsh alcohol bite. Pleasant warming from the 8% ABV

D: This beer is a unique mishmash of uncommon flavors.... could be really good with some refinement, or possibly toned down a bit, but the heaviness of the mouthfeel is a bit much. For me, this probably works best as a dessert beer after a big meal. One is definitely enough.

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Photo of toutaboutstout
3.6/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: Straight brown with an orange glow around the edge. The thead started out a mear 1/4 inch and did not last long. No lacing.

Smell: Fruity, and earthy. One can tell this will be a sweet beer after the first aroma is sensed.

Taste: Well, the raison is there, but only enough to make it interresting. friuty and sweet form start to finish. Very malty. Could have used a little more hops to balance it out, but all and all a good beer.

Drinkability: Very drinkable at the start but the finish becomes more pungent as it warms.

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Photo of roar1345
4.21/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

dark wood color which is beautiful. small head which disappears with a few minutes leaving a small ring.
at first sniff its almost nothing but there is a hint of toffee flavor in there which is hardly noticeable.
This tastes really great slightly raisony a little toffee and other dark notes. I'm a fan of darker beers and this is a perfect medium, i could drink this stuff all night. This is my favorite dogfish head beer i've had out of 4 or 5, the problems with most of their beers is they are much too hoppy for me, the finish is usually bitter and is slightly too carbonated. But they really did a great job with this beer good job dogfish head.

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Photo of WilliamLee
2.34/5  rDev -36.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

A dark tea color. No head.
Aroma: Raisin, chocolate, and malt.
Taste: Green fruit-black pepper-grassy funk-burnt malt. The sweetness up front is blasted away by the green fruit, black pepper, burnt malt taste that dominates the flavor. Fairly complex flavors but there isn't much that I enjoy. If you like these flavors then it could be enjoyable. For me, it could have been worse but this a borderline bad beer. Blech!

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Photo of nbbd
2.76/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

a: Mahagony just like the bottle said

s: Woody, Mushroomy, Smells like a produce section of a grocery store... No single Note leaves a lasting impression but has a... mix of fresh and turning fruits and vegetables - not bad but not distinguishable

t: Rum and sugar- cane/brown. Medicinal aftertaste?

m. thick coating- (I can feel the alcohol my thought as I exhale)

d. No idea yet. Will have to revisit this beer- Probably with a meal or snack. Not a beer Id sit and order at a bar. But not Bad...

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Photo of AleBlager
4.74/5  rDev +29.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This Belgian Strong Ale housed a thick dark head, a brown/amber color. The smell was reminiscent of Syrah wine, meaning that it was sweet, but sweet like how a good wine (or wino (Google image search wino)) smells. This is a thick beer, and given the immediate raisin taste, one that would serve as its own dessert. A hoppy-sweet aftertaste, with a smokiness that seals off the drink. explicitly enjoyable. You should take your time and enjoy this beer. The perfect sweet level, this beer is very complex and very well layered.

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Photo of BJBarleyWine83
3.13/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

12 oz. bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: Dark Amber with off-white head

S: Sweet smell with a potent alcohol odor.

T: Sweet and fruity at first, can taste the raisin. Spice flavor soon follows.

M: Medium-Body, smooth with moderate carbonation, slight alcohol burn as an aftertaste.

O: Interesting flavor, characteristics of some barley wines I've had. Probably more suitable for a winter evening.

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Photo of mdm4584
1.67/5  rDev -54.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Got this at AJ's Scottsdale.

Anticipated a completely different brew.

This beer is awful. The style according to BA is off. I don't know what DFH was brewing here. Be prepared to throw away.

Smell was peculiar and taste was disgusting.

Never again.

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Photo of oolite
3.66/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I am glad I bought a 6-pack of this, because I have had a slightly different impression of this beer on each successive bottle.

I first tried this in an oversized wine glass, but had the rest in a chalice - not much of a difference. Even with a fairly vigorous pour I was not able to produce virtually any head, which was a bit disappointing. The color looks similar to a bock until you hold it to the light and see that it is actually a bright red.

The nose had strong bread notes for me; sort of a slightly burnt crust. I do not recognize any grape/raisin notes, despite the intention - in fact, most bocks have much more present raisin notes. Alcohol flavor is also strong.

Despite these criticisms, it is a nice belgian style dark ale. The rich malt character comes through in the end, with just a slight bitterness, which gives the beer its ultimate strength.

As far as mouthfeel and drinkability, it is fairly heavy and fairly strong - not atypical of its style.

Definitely worth a try, and I appreciate the inherant adventuresome quality of Dogfish Head. However, I just do not think that the more adventurous path sought really paid off in this case.

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Photo of DangerVoltage
3.36/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours with a medium head the color of flan. The brew itself is a deep auburn color and quite clear.

The smell is not strong and not hoppy, but nice none the less: a mild brown sugar and malt, perhaps even a bit of the raisin? but I'm of coursed biased from the label...

Tastes Good. Little Hops. Lots of Booze flavor, on top of a myriad of sweet and malty undertones. This tastes a lot like some (be they much lighter colored) Belgian trippels that I've enjoyed.

A bit too carbonated for my taste. Not until the end of the glass was the foaming action down enough for me to really get a nice thick mouthfeel. For the majority of the drink, the mouth was all bubbles, hard to wrap the tongue around... but once that faded away... splendor.

Quite boozy Even two in a row is too many of these. Also quite sweet. A nice beer to have one of. Probably a waste of money to double up on this one.

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Photo of robertjohnson
3.49/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours mahogany with a head that lasts the first few sips. Rich raisin and buttered toffee aroma with some faint bubblegum. The flavor is almost exactly like my first attempt at homebrewing a brown ale: slight suggestions of over-ripe bananas that turn to bolder flavors of sweeter brown sugars, followed by alcoholic phenols and a roasted cocoa finish. Mouthfeel is nothing special, but I wouldn't want it any more or less carbonated. Nitro might be interesting though and might fix the quickly dissipating head and add to the general richness surrounding the beer (maybe too much). Overall impression is that there's a lot going on, but I found it pretty damn enjoyable. I do agree though that it seems way more like a light-bodied wee heavy (with all the complex flavors) rather than a belgian strong dark ale. This would pair great with thanksgiving desert or figgy pudding in the holidays, basically with anything rich and sweet.

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Photo of FordBrewing
3.27/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a small head with a mostly clear brown body. Heavy on the malt and light on the hops. A plethora of smells make up this brew including cherry, wood, coffee, brown sugar, and maple sugar, but most especially the raisins which give it it's name. It is medium bodied with a creamy texture and carbonation that leans to the softer side. Very sweet! A decent beer but one that at 8% abv makes me want to drink something else after having just one.

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Photo of joehiatt
2.82/5  rDev -23%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A- Pretty color, nice and clear, off-white head that faded fast.

S - Very fruity and estery, stone fruits, candy grape or banana

T - Some spiciness, nice sweet malty backbone. Finishes dry and odd, fairly alcoholic tasting, warmness.

M - Decent carbonation, but lingering phenols are unfortunate

D - Wouldn't have more than one but glad I tried it.

Overall a OK beer, though not particularly balanced. Certainly overrated, its unclear what the brewer's vision was.

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Photo of Trappistfan1
1.93/5  rDev -47.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

A - Deep amber color with thin head, no retention
S - Not much but alcohol hit my nose; pretty mild, though.
T - Alcohol seemed pronounced, some hops and other flavors that all seem to cancel each other out, but just well...not good.
M - Meh. I didn't leave it in my mouth long, to be fair.
D - slim to none IMO.

OK, I know that Belgian Strong Dark Ale is a broad category with lots of variation, but this seems like a weak entry in the field. Not in any way knocking DFH, most of what I've tried of their stuff is world class, but this was a drain pour for me.

Raison D'etre is, of course, French for "reason for living". To quote Norm McDonald, "Note to self: I don't want to live!".

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Photo of Scott414
4.22/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Beer was much darker than I anticipated however, not overwhelming malt characteristics. I could not really detect any of the green raisin flavor. Overall, it was a beer that I tried on a whim and I really enjoyed it. Dogfish always manages to make unique styles that I am always willing to indulge in.

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Photo of bth86
3.97/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Brown with a thin head, fads quickly, retains a bit of lacing

S: Fruit, Raisins, Rum?

T: Malty sweetness, fruit, A roasted malt finish, leaves a sweet alcohol aftertaste

M: Medium body, moderate carbonation

O: I liked it quite a bit. I bought this in a 4 pack and it really warmed up to me compared to the first few times I tried it. Certainly a very complex brew with a lot going on. I would definitely recommend it again!

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Photo of jims4210
3.08/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Had this based on the recommendation of a friend. He said it was his favorite beer ever. He's still my friend although I now question his taste in beer.

Poured a bottle into a Guinness pint glass...

A: A dark amber color with minimal head which disappeared almost immediately.
S: Raisons, a whiff of alcohol, not surprising considering the ABV.
T: Sweetness dominates. Way too sweet and syrupy for me.
M: The best part of this beer. Nice carbonation. The beer lingers on my tongue, giving a longer than usual aftertaste.. A little hot, with the alcohol clearly noticeable.
D: I'd be one and done with this one. Not my favorite example of a BSDA. I'm a fan of DFH, but not too impressed with this one.

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Photo of DDCMember
4.17/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

-12 oz. bottle poured into Dogfish Head Pint.

A: Reddish-Brown/Amber. Thin head, disappears quickly, lots of "fizz" though.

S: Raisins, right off the bat. Little bit of brown sugar & caramel.

T: Similiar to the smell. Raisins as first but not as strong as the smell would suggest. Rather sweet with some malt flavoring and a little bit of alcohol.

M: Light Body. Always has a thin ring of carbonation around the glass, well carbonated.

D: Very good! At 8% ABV, it doesn't taste like it. The sweetness doesn't bother me as much as other people have complained about. I could drink quite a few of these.

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Photo of sonofdon
3.63/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This was my first Dogfish Head brew. I haven't been able to find it at my local beer stores. I stubled upon this a Jackson's in the Village. From the outside this wouldn't have been my first Dogfish that I wanted to try. I'm glad I tried this one.

Appearance: Deep amber with hints of purple and brown

Smell: Fruit, mainly grape, and some malt

Taste: Like no other beer I have had. Deep fruitieness with sweet malt. You get a strong alcohol tast on the front of your tonge. Slight bitterness, but very little hop flavor. Clean finish. Very little head that does not stick around.

Mouthfeel: Clean with some abrasiveness from the alcohol.

Drinkablity: Not as easy as I would have liked. This is an aggressive beer that is challenging to most pallets.

Overall, I enjoyed this beer. I'm not sure that I would run out and buy this, but I would have it out with the proper meal.


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Photo of dalherring
4.65/5  rDev +27%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I have had this both on tap and from a bottle, and it far better on tap. It has a rich amber color with a creamy head. You can smell the fruity aroma which is like unto the Corsendonk Abbey Brown Ale and the Chimay Rouge. The alcohol content is high, which can be tasted and felt immediately, but this brew will disarm you with its remarkable smoothness.

I am a huge fan of Dogfish for its fine microbrews, and I dare say that the Raison D'etre is its capstone. I love it's sweet, smooth aftertaste, and regard drinking it on tap as one of my favorites. It is hard to find in bottles, much less on tap. So if you do see it on a menu or in a cooler, indulge yourself.

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Photo of Boofshavik
3.46/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle from the local HEB, poured into a DFH glass.

Appearance: A nice amber color, pours well into the glass and builds to a decent 1.5 inch head which dissipates over the first minute or so to a central patch on the surface that sticks around a while.

Smell: Some higher alcohols (dark rum, solvent) are immediate in the nose with faint spice and some dark fruit.

Taste: The raisin character is there, along with other dark fruit but it's masked by the heat of the alcohol. The sweetness on the front of the tongue is welcome.

Mouthfeel: Slick but not heavy. Nice prickle of carbonation. Sticks to the tongue nicely as I think the style should.

Drinkability: This beer lets its 8% be known. It's something you'd have one or two of in an evening, but is a little heavy for more serious consumption.

Overall: There is something about Raison d'Etre that has always appealed to me. It was one of the first craft beers that made me think about an adjunct as something not inherently evil. It gets a few extra points for nostalgia and spirit from me (and my bias is noted here!)

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Photo of phergy
3.96/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a nice, dark, reddish brown. The head is light cream, and fads quickly leaving a thin ring around the glass. It was poured into a standard pint glass, and is about 50°.

It does not have a strong nose, but I did catch a hint of malt and almost a coffee smell. I'm not noticing some of the other more subtle scents others are.

The beer has a nice malty flavor. I'm also picking up the belgian sugars and just a hint of sourness. The finish is smooth. Mouthfeel may be a little weak, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it watery.

I actually enjoyed this beer more than I thought I would, and would definitely drink it again if available.

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Photo of Micahman
3.83/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I should note that I have a bit of a head cold as I review this beer, so my olfactory sense is a bit muttled.

Rich, deep mahogany color, moderate carbonation, yet nice long columns of bubbles after a pour.

Small (~1.0 in) head, dissipating quickly to leave sparse lace around the top of the glass. I tried a tall hefeweizen glass (not recommended), and a large red wine glass, which drank much better.

The taste is delicious. At first I wasnt awestruck, but after a couple the rich, carmel and raisin tones came out on top, with a warm, dark aftertaste that belied it's 8% abv. Slight hints of spice. The more I drank this beer, the more that warm, fall taste grew on me. Excellent late fall or early winter beer. Packs a good punch.

Decent mouthfeel, but this beer really shines in it's immediate aftertaste. All the flavors come out.

Fairly drinkable, but i wouldnt have more than 3 or so in a sitting. Recommended beer.

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Photo of HESSLER500
3.32/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Have been looking at this beer for a long time on the shelf and finally bought a six yesterday; wish I hadn't - have 5 more to go. As a fan of most RIS's, scottish & Belgian ales with higher abv's, i definitely think this is a fairly bland brew. The notes i sensed were the raison's, and maybe plum and some 'tangy' aftertaste. The so called "8% burn" wasn't really noticed. Overall, won't buy again, but will have when the good stuff is gone.

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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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