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Raison D'Être | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

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1,773 Reviews
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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: 1,773 | Ratings: 4,284
Photo of FlemingVSKing
4.55/5  rDev +24.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Simply a perfect blend of a deep rich ale with a brilliant lighter background of unique fruit tones.

Upon first tasting it, I immediately thought it was the best new brew that I have tried in months. I would gladly buy cases of this stuff. It's really good.

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Photo of PHSCAPT
3.62/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: A good deal lighter than I expected for a BSDA. Note: those of you who think this is supposed to be a stout - it isn't.
S: Nothing overt. Typical Belgian fruit-ishness.
T: Raisin and fig notes; slightly sour finish
M: Not overly carbonated as one would expect from a BSDA
O: Good but not jaw-dropping awesome BSDA for an American firm. Needs to be darker with more alcohol. It's not St Bernardus, but then, it isn't the price of St Bernardus either.

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Photo of CheezyBlaster
3.68/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Not bad at all. Dark, brown, and robust pour. Shades of red/ruby. Short finger of a head fades over a minute.

Smell: a dark Belgian ale. Hint of dark fruit, but mostly a mild sweet-beet aroma, brown sugar, molasses, touch of raisin.

Mouth follows similarly. (All 5 I've had over the week start off with a tin/stainless steel-like taste that fades after 2 sips) Classic Belgian yeasts, but very subdued, relatively. The malt guides the flow. The beets and raisins advertised on the bottle show up and shape the piece, but do not dominate. Mildly spicy -probably the hops? Mild is a good word for this brew. Very dangerous 8% beer. If I loved the flavor and feel, I'd get into trouble, fast.

Good American take on this style. Not a fan of the style, but I appreciate the work; raisins with beet sugar are a good addition. I mean, I don't want to slim this down to a one-dimensional review, but it's like a mild, alcohol-hiding, dark Belgian ale with hints of beet sweetness and genuine raisin.

Now, my score might not add up, but this is my favorite dark Belgian, ever. So, numbers don't mean everything. If you like the style, please try this.

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Photo of JDizzle
3.75/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark dirty brown with not much head. Looks like cola with its bubbles and Color.

Smells really great with dark fruits, sweet Malt, and brown sugar cane.

Taste starts with a sweet brown sugar and dried fruit medley. Really rich, but could get tiring if drinking more than one.

Mouthfeel is superb. Its so easy to drink, although tiring if multiplies are consumed.

Overall its solid and would be good to cook with.

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Photo of dexterk1
3.83/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this one at the alehouse in Gaithersburg. Color is nice dark brown and head seems strong.
Odor is sweet and fruity. Raisin, malt, and brown sugar.
Taste is raisin as well. Sweet and malty. Spices come through a bit too. It may be a bit too sweet, but seems to work well throughout. Alcohol sneaks in as well and seems to take away something a little bit.
Mouth feel is good and smooth. The abv does not make it harsh. The fruit helps with that.

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

This beer has roots in wine. Hey, that’s OK with me. I just started a part-time job at Total Wine, and we don’t carry this… maybe we should! Anyway, the beer has a cool name and I am excited to try it. Just this week I grabbed a bottle of 120 Minute IPA. That beer is so hard to come by, I think I am going to leave that in the cellar for a while. But this one has been in the fridge for quite some time, and I am curious what it tastes like.

In the Glass: It looks like a barleywine in the glass. Speaking of barleywines, the Firestone website lists the Firestone Walker Double DBA as a barleywine. It’s not… the label even says “imperial special bitter”. Anyway, this beer is dark, ruby red and looks like a barleywine. The beer doesn’t have any head at all, and no lace to speak of. Maybe this beer really does taste like a wine.

Nose: Whoa… that beer smells incredible. It’s sweet, and again reminds me as a barleywine. I have never heard of Belgian beet sugar… but whatever it is, it makes this beer smell incredible. I am sure it packs a punch on the palate as well. I wonder if anyone has ever released a beer called the Palate Puncher… a double IPA would make sense!

Flavor: And it tastes like a barleywine. It has a very smooth, almost flat consistency across the palate and packs a punch of flavors. It is somewhat complex, starting smooth and sweet and finishing strong and somewhat malty. The beer is very enjoyable, and for the advanced flavors that I am experiencing, I am shocked at the price. Sipping this makes me wonder what foods would pair well with it.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is nice. It start smooth and flat, and stays that way until the finish. The fact there is no head and basically no lace makes sense with how this beer goes down. I bet this would taste incredible on cask. I did swish it around in my mouth a little bit, and that opened up some new flavors. Nothing crazy. The sweetness really overwhelms the entire palate.

Aftertaste: The aftertaste, for such a powerful beer, isn’t as impressive. It is sort of there and gone again. When I struggle to get some flavors from the swallow, I am tasting fig and some sweet maltiness toward the finish of the swallow. But the aftertaste is nothing to write home about.

I must say, for a beer that I had no idea what to expect… I am pleasantly surprised. The flavors are incredible, and the aroma is wonderful. Look at me… using all these big adjectives. Anyway, I am a big fan of sweet malty beers, and this one fits that realm. I would totally buy this again. I wonder if this tastes better closer to room temperature… yeah, I am sure it does. Bottoms up, people!

Raison D’Être – The bottle says: “A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beet sugars, green raisins, & a sense of purpose”

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

Light ruddy brown with an off white head. Gentle carbonation, not much lace. Aroma has lots of sweetness. Sugar, caramel malt, dark fruits, banana, alcohol. Belgian yeast funk as well.
Taste is full of complexity. Dark fruits and banana with a cocoa and coffee flair. Think mocha with a light shot of banana syrup. Dry chalky finish with a pleasing pucker that while not hoppy gives a similar clean crispness. Light syrupy feel and mild carbonation. A very nice take on the style and quite drinkable. Indeed the drinkability is one of the best qualities of this beer. It is the closest thing to a session BSDA I have had. Not a standout but a definite regular on my shopping list from now on.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.67/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear dark brown with a 1/2 inch foamy dark khaki head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Small patches of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of toasted malt, brown sugar, and some slight dried fruit aromas. Taste is of roasted and toasted malt, burnt sugar, spice, and some fruity flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roasty and spice bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer flavor wise but I think I like the aromas I am getting over the flavors.

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Photo of SouljaSaia17
3.8/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A pleasant surprise to find this and the Indian Brown ale in my mix a six choices.

A: Nice dark, amber color with a 1-finger creamy nut colored head.

S: Some Belgian yeast, dark fruit, and some spice start of this high alcohol brew. Also get some hints of brown sugar, raisin and molasses.

O: Overall feel is very sweet and spicy, light bodied and doesnt hid the alcohol content. A very strong tasting beer which could throw some people off. If you know Dogfish Head, you will grow to appreciate it!

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Photo of obrike
3.82/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Wow...this one's interesting. Bought a single at HEB Round Rock for 1.99.

Like the color a lot...a rich reddish brown, a rich head that disappears fairly quickly...not too much lacing on this one at all though.

Dig the smell..sugary sweet malt, a light touch of Belgian yeasts and fruits...maybe rum drenched raisins? Taste follows...this is a brew with big sugar and full malty flavors with fruit to round it off. The Belgian aspects are pretty backseat. Quite an odd, but good beer.

The sweetness of this one kind of makes it a one and done beer for me tonight, but I think I'd get it again....almost a fun treat beer...probably would go really well with dessert.

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Photo of SolipsismalCat
3.68/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass.

A: Slightly hazy red-brown with a two-finger, off-white, creamy head that lasted a few minutes. Good lacing.

S: Sweet malt, dark fruit and molasses. Kind of a funky aroma too.

T: Strong sweetness and light bitterness. Same sweet malt and dark fruit as in the nose. A little too sweet in my opinion.

M: Medium bodied with lively carbonation. Crisp and refreshing. Warm going down.

O: Despite it being a bit too sweet, I actually did enjoy this beer. It something different.

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Photo of optimistictour
4.02/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

On par with (especially American made) dark Belgians, with a smaller head receding into a wisp with some lacing on the sides.. but it smells like a champ. Well at least a really promising beer. None of that super-upfront pungent sourness which many American dubbels and darks get wrong when it comes to Beligans. It tastes like the hops mean business but are perfectly tempered by the sweetness of the malt and creamy texture.

I think the components - looks decent, smells appetizing, tastes yummy, feels good - appear to add up to a solid but uninteresting beer. It's actually an interesting swirl though these territories with its own distinctive feel. At under $12 a six pack it's almost a steal.

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Photo of AwYeh
2.44/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Poured from a 12 oz glass into snifter. Bottled April 2012.

A: Pours a foggy ruby red color with half a finger of frothy off-white head. Some lacing remains.

S: Above all, this is SWEET. I'm getting dark fruits, brown sugar, and molasses. Not much of the yeast or other flavors that I would expect from this particular Belgian style.

T: Likewise, the taste is quite sweet. I get a lot of butterscotch, raisan, and plum. Dark, fruity, and sweet. Hints of molasses and spices come through too. A decent amount of alcohol makes it through.

M: Fairly thin-bodied for the ABV, a bit of carbonation lends it a light creaminess. Unfortunately, it does nothing to add to the beer's finish.

O: A very sweet, fruity beer. It hides its alcohol well, but compared to others in the style, doesn't necessarily offer the complexity of flavor that I expected. Not sure that I'll be seeking this one out again.

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Photo of thebeerarchitect
4.12/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I'm still new to the beer tasting seen so bare with me. I'm typically a whisky connoisseur when I have a real meaty meal but the other night I decided I was going to branch out. I was at as small plate restaurant called "girl and the goat" which I highly recommend in Chicago. Any ways I told the waitress I wanted a full body beer that had somewhat of a bitter/sweet finish, she recommended the Raison D'Etre. Needless to say this beer did not disappoint. The brew was full of flavor and match quite well with my steak and fish. This has become my new favorite beer when I only want one or two drinks with a nice steak. I hope this review was helpful.

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Photo of ummswimmin
3.4/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Happy 4th of July! My first beer to celebrate the American spirit is coming kind of late today.

I poured Raison into a snifter glass to hold in the raisin smell. It looks really good with about two fingers of head and a dark brown/red coloring.

I like the smell coming off the top. You do really easily pick up the raisin smell. I also get that rich dark ale presence. It works well.

The flavor really falls off. I don't get much balance in my glass. The raisin presence drops off unless you pull air across it.

I'm a little disappointed in how this turned out. I am a big DFH fan, and this really missed the target for me.

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

12oz bottle into tulip.

A - Pours a rich mahogany brown with a dense off white head.

S - Plum, raisin, Belgian candi sugar, roasted malts, molasses.

T - Taste is a blend of dark fruit, molasses, candi sugar, and bready malts. Earthy, mildly bitter hops come out, balancing the sweetness. Finish is nutty with hints of nutmeg and allspice.

M - Smooth, medium bodied, a bit creamy. High carbonation, slightly warming alcohol.

O - Decent brew. While it's not the most complex Belgian strong ale around, it still has great flavor and drinkabilty. Definitely worth a try.

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

Pours a brown color with a thick three finger head. Smells of Belgian yeast and chocolate. Tastes pretty good. There are chocolate, pepper, clove, and coffee notes. It does finish a tad hot, that is the biggest fault I can find with this beer. It has a good amount of carbonation, not enough to over power the flavor of the beer, which is substantial. Overall, this is a pretty good beer. I have had it before, years ago on draft, picked based upon the interesting name. I feel good about my decision then, and even better about it now. Quite a different beer than what I have recently been drinking.

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Photo of jpro
4.52/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle from Total Wine Park Rd in Charlotte. Poured into a DFH snifter...

A: Pours a bright, mahogany-amber with an off-white, one-finger head; no lace.

S: Very rich, sweet aroma; plums; molasses; brown sugar; nutmeg; very nice.

T: Dark, sweet bread; raisin / plum notes; candi sugar; delicious and complex... would make for a great Thanksgiving beer.

M: Full mouthfeel; high carbonation; velvety and a touch tingly.

O: A deliciously complex ale; a Dogfish Head classic.

*from notes (6-11-12)

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

12oz bottle served in a snifter.

pours a reddish amber tone while yielding a frothy 1" head; average retention and lacing. nose is a bit on the mild side with notes of caramel, raisin, and some brown sugar evident.

taste follows the aroma but is more pronounced than the nose leads you to believe, especially with the raisins and some other dark fruity notes. good dose of sweet malts. good beer. not crazy good, but enjoyable enough. medium bodied mouthfeel with average carbonation.

overall i thought this was a decent, reasonable tasty, above average beer. nothing i would go out of my way for, and definitely not the best DFH has put out, but solid.

(originally reviewed: 07-26-2011)

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

This is a nice nutty brown ale. Smell a little vanilla/banana. The raisin flavor is subtle, but expected that. It has a nice balance of hops, not too bitter, dark copper color. Some malt/molasses overpowers as it warms, but tastes really good at first pour!

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Photo of Thickfreakness
3.75/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Pours a rusty, mahogany brown into my Ithaca Excelsior glass. Sidewalls of Cherry Dr. Pepper shine thru fairly clear brew. It poured with a thick cherry/tan head that quickly faded to near nothingness. Barely a trace of lacing, but the carbonation is really alive and bubbly.

S- Raisins, figs, prunes, banana's, sweet caramel and whisps of alcohol. The banana's really open up as this one warms up. Lots of fall pie spices round out the nose.

T- Deep and sweet dark caramel, dried figs, raisins, over-ripe banana, sweet dark malt, brown sugar, molasses, and pumpkin pie spices. Big notes of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger as it warms up.

M- Kind of thin and wimpy. Really wish it was as sticky as the nose tells you it could be. The carbonation completely fades after a short time and leaves the tongue kind of dull and limp. The booze wakes and warms you, but this is a low point for this brew.

O- It's nice, and I'll certainly try it again... but I was expecting more from this Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Nothing to write home about, but certainly not bad at all. Nice nose, flavor and look... but the thin mouth was a let down on this. Too bad.

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Photo of DrinkSlurm
4.02/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into NB globe. Pours a mnaple syrup looking brown with ruby red hue. No head and ever so small lacing. Smells of amber malts, sweet dried fruit, and a hint of vanilla. Taste is of very malty dried raison. Some boozey vanilla notes. Seemingly hidden flavors at fist taste, but they really develop on the tongue in the aftertaste. Its fantastically smooth and really full of hidden flavors that linger. Overall, this is a great brew. Not sure if id classify as a belgian though. Its taste a little closer to a a Strong Ale, but either way, its a great brew and worthy of a try. Im gonna age one in my closet for a few months and report back...

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Photo of midworken
3.2/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a deep brown amber colored body with a creamy head that dissipated rather quickly.
Raisins, caramel and figs with a bright citrusy hop profile dominate the smell. Cinnamon, vinalla and other spices are somewhere in the complexity of this brew's aroma as well.

A very malty, syrapy taste with a little bit of hop character near the front of the taste. The raisins and smooth caramel/vanilla are definately still there, but the complexity loses once you begin tasting it.

It's a very thick and syrapy beer, with low to medium carbonation. Very mellow sort-of brew, would be good on a chilly fall evening.

Was really getting excited when I was smelling this, but the excitement turned to a slight disappointment when tasting it. Still, it's a good beer especially at the right time and place.

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Photo of elNopalero
2.69/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Not sure how to classify this beer exactly so I’ll just report on what my impressions are without the style getting in the way.

Poured this from a bottle into a stemmed glass. I was rewarded with an amber-ruby hued beverage capped by a dose of billowy foam.

I get a … conflicting aroma, one that’s musty, murky, with notes of stone fruits colliding with a cloying malt backbone. There’s a faint green apple (or dried apple) hint on the back met with caramel… why am I thinking of caramel apples here?

Unfortunately or not the flavor follows suit, with a thick caramel apple malt profile and some more of that cloying caramel sweetness. I get a boozy imbalance that’s far too pronounced for an 8% ABV beer. Finishes tacky without being chewy, and makes me think of a run-of-the-mill amber ale.

At the end I think of an out of balance Belgian quad. This is all over the place, and not in a way that I like. One of the few Dogfishhead beers that I can say was truly awful.

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Photo of imasloth
4.08/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Medium brown ale with hints of red and amber in light. Orangish and cream-coloured thin head that dissipates quickly leaving fine lacing. Persistent ring of suds and etching at bottom of goblet continues to funnel carbonation upward through beer.

S- Alcohol and sweeteness ... brown sugar, caramel, malt. As the beer warms the alcohol becomes even more prominent.

T- Dry with a nice bitterness. Hops and some brown sugar, not present in the smell, come out. A slight hint of raisins. I paired the meal with some grilled foods, finding lamb drew out the raisin flavor and a finishing bitterness while corn brought out the dryness.

M- Medium-bodied and dry, yet smooth.

)- Very good but has its flaws. I selected this beer for its pairing quality with red meats (is lamb red?) and it didn't disappoint. Not a regular go-to beer but one that has its moments.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.66 out of 5 based on 4,284 ratings.
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