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: 4,286
Photo of BrownNut
3.74/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Dark mahogany like they say, but you can see through it. Light tan head.

S - Smells like yeasty malty pastry with something fruity

T - Taste is pleasantly rich dark caramel, like it's been reduced a bit, so it has more mature character than just straight sweet caramel would have. Somebody else mentioned toffee. Maybe that's it. The slight beginnings of a bitter tang in the back of the throat in the aftertaste but not quite. It's almost like there's a hint of wood tannin in there.

M - Light-medium and finishes, if not quite dry, then on the edge of crisp.

O - Really not what I was expecting and not as complex as I was expecting, but really solid, pleasant, and satisfying. This is a rich and tasty beer that I would welcome anytime. I know it's not a sessioner, but that's how I'd want to drink it. A solid flavorful simple beer to throw back while focusing on chatting with friends.

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Photo of lancecenter
3.9/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A - Nice thick head with good retention, rich brown color, solid lacing.

S - Buttery malts, raisins, and some spiciness.

T - Malts, raisins, alcohol, and nuttiness. I don't really taste the sweetness and phenols as others have. The high alcohol content is well hidden IMO as well.

M - Medium body and carbonation. Dry finish.

O - I really like this beer, but I really like BSDAs period. It would be hard to recommend this over something like Chimay.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.32/5  rDev +18%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a dark mahogany red with a finger of frothy tanish head. The head fades down fairly slowly leaving behind some lace.

S - Aroma is a mix of raisin and other sweet dark fruits, Belgian candi sugar, and some spicy belgian yeast.

T - Starts off with a mix of sweet raisin and plum with some dark Belgian Candi sugar and a bit of spicy yeast character. Through the middle, some more earthy dark fruit flavors come through with some stronger Belgian yeast flavors and spices. The finish is a mix of sweet dark fruits, candi sugar, Belgian yeast, and a bit of booze.

M - Medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation. Feels smooth with a sweet and warming finish.

D - Very drinkable. Nice take on the BSDA flavor with lots of raisin and dark fruit flavor. The overall balance is really nice.

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Photo of socon67
3.88/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A caramel color pour. No lacing. Thin foam that disappears.

S scent of raisins, and Belgian yeast. Has a slight acidic smell.

T sweet fruit flavor, along with Belgian yeast and finishes with a acidic burn. Slightly tart.

M easy drinking beer. Feels lighter than the ABV.

O a fun belgian style Id try again. Another good option from DFH.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.25/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: somewhere between amber brown and ruby brown, nice tan two-finger head to start

S: noticed the sweet raisin aromas, maltiness

T: bright yeast flavors make the raisin notes take on a wine-like character; relatively dry tasting considering the fruitiness, which makes for a very pleasant drinking experience

M: nice and crisp, clean and light - very drinkable

O: I shouldn't be surprised by any Dogfish Head ales at this point, but I didn't expect to like this as much as I do - an extrememly enjoyable beverage with a great flavor and feel profile. though it falls into the BSDA group, it was lighter and crisper than others I've had (which I liked)

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Photo of julian89
3.35/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Drank on 05/02/2012
Poured from bottle to pint glass.

Appearance: A dark brown, close to maroon, body, minimal head and retention.

Smell: Sweet dark belgian smell of raisin and plum.

Taste: Very sweet but a little more alcohol in taste than others. Strong similarity in taste to a traditional belgian in regards to the raisin and plum taste. Finishes with a warm and roasty feel.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied.Little carbonation.

Drinkability: I like darker belgians, I like this, very easy and not as complex as others I have had.

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Photo of jegross2
3.47/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Reviewing the Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.
Score: 83

Bottled on 08/09/11, served in a pint glass at Merkles Bar & Grill in Wrigleyville and enjoyed on 03/31/12 with my good friend Bryan Hernandez.

Appearance: Pours a murky, blood orange colored core that fades to a dull late sunset colored outline. Minimal head at pour, just a little bubble tan layer that quickly settles. Minimal oily lacing, below average retention. 3/5

Smell: Brown sugar, Belgian yeast, cinnamon and nutmeg. Raisin, fig, banana, creamy vanilla, and doughy bread (Hernandez swears it smells like the Guinness bread he baked the other week). The menu says there is "beet sugar" in the aroma, but I would not have guessed it if the menu did not tell me that. 3.5/5

Taste: First impression is yeast and doughy bread with a modest vanilla twist. There is a dry and nondescript earthy bitterness (hops?) on the back half of the palate. Malty wheat, banana bread and an earthy nuttiness on the midpalate. Some light raisin flavor, without the sweetness, mixed throughout. None of the brown sugar or cinnamon from the aroma is seemingly present in the flavor. Finishes with a lingering Belgian yeast flavor that is a bit sugary. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation. Smooth, slightly oily mouthfeel. Very dry, and a little acidic upfront. 3.5/5

Overall: Most DFH brews, given their experimental approach to craft, tend to be hit-or-miss, but this one falls somewhere between. I enjoyed this beer, and it was solid, but I would not have ordered another. I doubt I would buy this at the store in the future either, having previously tried it. DFH makes much better beers (e.g., Miles Davis Bitches Brew) than this, but they also make plenty that are way worse (e.g., Faithfull Ale).

Recommendation: Worth trying, but not worth seeking out.

Pairings: Roasted chicken.

Cost: $5 for a 12 oz bottle at the bar.

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Photo of RickS95
3.02/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Doesn't remind me of a Belgian dark ale. It's brown, but it's a loose looking, almost clear brown. The head is a letdown, there one second and gone the next.

I pick up some malt and caramel in the nose, with only the slightest bit of raisin when I agitate the glass.

The tongue picks up some raisin and malt, but little else. I still have a hard time considering this a Belgian strong dark ale. Maybe in another category it would score better, but it's a sloppy tasting Belgian.

Very malty from beginning to end, so there's a slight creaminess to it. But the beet sugars take over with an aggressive feel that doesn't really go with it. Has an Earthy finish.

I'm not a fan of most Dogfish Head beers and this is very average at best. I don't think it fits the style very well, but regardless, it's only a very average beer in every which way.

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Photo of WesM63
3.2/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz bottle poured into a tulip/snifter

A: Pours a clear-ish amber brown color and a nice 2finger off white head. Very minor lacing.

S: Malty, dark fruits (fig or raisin's)

T: Boozy up front, with some sweet sugars in the middle (maybe a hint of dark fruits) and a sweeter finish.

M: Medium body with low carbonation.

O: Not a terrible brew, but an extremely poor example of the style. As other have said, it is indeed a boozy mess. IMO, It's missing that huge malt backbone that defines a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but to each their own I suppose.

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

Poured from a bottle into a standard pint glass. Served at ~40 degrees, 5 weeks after stamped bottling date.

A: Pours with a nice 2 finger head that sticks around for maybe 3 minutes. Minor lacing. Nice red-amber color?

S: Mostly candy-malt and fruit. Lots of raisin and black currant aroma.

T: Raisiny with some alcohol bite (subdued by malt) and light end-bitterness on the back of the tongue. Not very roasty, but the dark Belgian candi syrup is apparent and there's some toffee in there too. Sweeter than it is bitter.

M: Full bodied and smooth. A little alcohol bite but it's nicely buffered.

O: This is really a nice dubbel. There are enough flavors to keep you busy in the tasting but it's also accessible. My wife happily drank one of these tonight and she doesn't like most beer styles. This is a great beer to analyze with friends and it's got me wondering if I can make one half as nice myself. However, two of these may be my limit for an evening - between the high alcohol, complex flavors, and full body it is very filling.

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

A - Pours a reddish brown color with an off-white head and some lacing.

S - Notes of brown sugars, yeast, and other dark fruit flavors. A bit of alcohol notes as well.

T - Dark fruit flavors, some spicyness and a sort of boozy alcohol flavor. Definitely has that dark Belgian flavor.

M - Medium bodied, low carbonation - smooth drinking at first, but quite boozy and eventually a little harsh.

O - Raison D'Etre is an interesting, but ultimately a little disappointing and it doesn't live up to its potential. It ends up being a bit of a boozy mess. Not half bad, but not what I would reach for in the DFH repertoire.

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

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a New Belgium globe.

A: Pours a translucent, copper color with 1/2 finger of pale tan head. Some retention and lace.

S: Bubblegum, straw and a little cinnamon.

T: A little hop bite up front leads to bubblegum, brown sugar and cinnamon, with some tea on the finish and light molasses in the aftertaste. As the beer warms, some nutty almond joins in, then later light black pepper.

M: Not too heavy, carbonation is slightly prickly.

O: I really like this beer. While the flavor doesn't quite make it to a 4.5, there is something about it that's really satisfying. Will definitely buy again.

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Photo of Bockrules
3.58/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

poured from the bottle into a snifter

A - Pours a slightly hazy orangish-amber. Curtains of small bubbles rise to the two-finger, dense, off-white head. Head stays intact as a thin layer of bubbles nearly all the way down the glass. Leaves several sizable splotches of lacing.

S - Fairly weak nose of sugar cane and a hint of green raisins.

T - Caramelized brown sugar upfront. More caramelized sugar in the body, but a fair amount of tangy green raisin taste comes out as well. The raisin flavor crescendos as the beer passes over the back of the tongue, then the brown sugar resumes control in the finish.

M - Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Fairly delicate, but not nearly as good as other examples of the style.

Definitely a unique brew here using belgian beet sugars and green raisins. Some may find it extraordinary, I found it to get on my nerves after about half the bottle. It hides its alcohol well enough and has a decent mouthfeel, but the caramelized brown sugar and green raisin notes didn't work together. I suspect this will be a highly polarizing brew, but I'll pass and opt for Trois Pistoles in the future.

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Photo of MrMegaton09
4.02/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured in Tall Pilsner to serve.

I had purchased this beer from a local craft brew shop after trying to track this particular brew for quite some time now locally.

First pour you can immediately notice a beautiful dark amber/slight red hue from this beer, very good looking beer. Aroma is very interesting and you can immediately pick up on the sweetness.

Medium to above average quality lacing. Head reduces fairly quickly.

For taste, kind of hard to draw an opinion on the first few sips, but after a while you can start to pick up on the beet sugars and a little bit on the raisins as well. Very smooth finish, no bitterness and finishes sweet.

Overall a very good extremely drinkable blend that was well worth the wait for me. If you see this brew around anywhere do not be afraid to give it a try.


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

Poured into a Duvel Snifter.

A - Ruby brown with a tan head. Leaves little lacing, but looks quite attractive while it retains.

S -Dominated by dark fruits. That said, there are some hints of dark malts, and certainly some raisins.

T - Dark fruits take the forefront on this one, followed by a complex composition of tastes which, personally, I am not in love with. This is enjoyable for those who like some depth to their beer, yet I feel that the taste should be a bit for "full" given the style they are going for.

M - A solid malt backbone but fairly empty beyond that. Some flavors of fruit persist but it seems a bit empty. Carbonation is low, but optimal.

O - This is another good brew from Dogfish Head. This is by no means the best they have produced, yet it is something truly unique. I probably will not pursue many additional bottles in the future, but I can comprehend why some may cherish this beer.

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Photo of ehammond1
2.75/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

On Tap

Churchill's Pub & Grille
San Marcos, CA

Dark brown with ruby edges and a very small brown head. This leaves little to no lacing and the body looks thin, especially per the style.

A dark-fruit forward aroma with some raisin, dark cherry, a bit of sweet honey, and roots.

The flavor follows the aroma with some raisin and dark grape character, a bit of strange sweetness, Belgian-style yeast that has a stale quality to it. This is sort of a strange, everyone at once BSDA.

Thin bodied with low carbonation.

I will not have this again.

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Photo of brureview
4.39/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a chalice. There is a light apricot smell from the beer, and a piquant alcoholic mouthfeel.

The highlight is the finish: a wonderful apricot and refreshing tangerine fruitness. The carbonation melds well with the finish.

Overall, a great beer. This was my second tasting within a few weeks, and I was able to enjoy its subtle nuances in greater detail.

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

Appearance: Medium dark copper/amber. Pours a medium, fairly creamy head.

Aroma: Hoppy and fuirty, but with a malty background. Yeast, apricots, and raisins.

Taste: Rich and complex, with malty sweetness and fruit. Belgian Ale type yeast. Lingering aftertaste of dried fruit.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, some carbonation present. Quite smooth.

Overall: I like it. The strong ABV disappears completely and instead you get an intricate mixture of aromas and flavours. Perhaps there is a lack of some more dominant characteristic, as now it's a bit of a mess of things, but a good mess anyway!

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Photo of Hopdaemon39
3.35/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a tulip- poured a clear reddish brown (as they say, mahogany) with very little head, very slight retention and lacing.

Upon first whiff I smell green grapes and alchohol. A second try yields some yeast.

First taste is overwhelmingly alcoholic for a beer that is by no means off the charts in that category. Definite minus... Trying to ignore that, there are notes of raisins and dark malt plus some of the yeast (unfortunately, that taste is mixed in with the alcohol burn at the end). Finishes sweet with the green raisins.

Mouthfeel is good- moderate carbonation around the edges and a good medium body. This is an odd one- DFH certainly has a fascination with grapes, which I feel do not belong in beer. If you want the full flavor experience, drink out of a tulip, chalice, etc., but if you just want a reasonably priced, high ABV brew just drink it from the bottle or in a pint.

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Photo of BMMillsy
3.37/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Pours brown with small cream colored head. Smells of wet dog and raisins, not much else. Taste is similar, some sweet watery molasses, figs, raisins, wet dog finish. Not crazy about this one. A little muddled and doesn't finish particularly clean. Not bad, but won't seek it out. I just don't get it.

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

Poured into a chalice.

A: Fizzy half finger head that quickly disappears. Deep amber-brown color with light coming through. No real lacing.

S: Candied sugars with notes of raisins. Nice spice from the Belgian yeast, with some sweet brown sugar on the back end. Nothing overpowering here.

T: Taste follows the smell, with pronounced dark fruits. Pretty easy drinking BSDA. Heat is subtle, and the the fruits and malts linger.

M: Moderate carbonation with medium body.

D/O: Good for the style, although I prefer a bit bolder flavor/aroma from these.

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Photo of Blueribbon666
3.85/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from notes.
Pours an amber color into pint glass with a small amount of carbonated head that dissipates quickly.
Smells of piney citrus hops, malt, a bit of raisin and dark fruits.
Taste/mouthfeel, malty offering up front as the alcohol hits on the back end and a fairly good mix of malty, fruit and belgian like yeasty flavors that finishes clean.
Would recommend this to others who enjoy malty or belgian type stronger abv offerings

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Photo of mptorpey
3.03/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: A dark brown beer with low carbonationa nd small white head.

S: a sweek fruity smell at first with some brown sugar, banna, rasins, and spice.

T: Nice smooth beer with a sweetness fisishing with a long burth aftertaste.

M: sooth and easy to drink

O: I nice easy to drink beer that is very complex tasts. Very supries on the low carbonationa and smoothness to the beer for how complex the beer is on the palate.

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

A- amber brown with white head. Little lacing.
S- some fruitiness and floral hints.
T- malty with burnt fruit after taste.
M- light carbonation with a mildly dry finish.

I was expecting something more from this brew. I will have to try again another time.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.66 out of 5 based on 4,286 ratings.
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