Raison D'Être | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

4,295 Ratings
Read the review
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

For Trade:
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 4,295 |  Reviews: 1,773
Photo of Rhynes2
3.68/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer reminded me of their Indian Brown Ale. Pours a nice darker color with a decent foam head. Laced a little down the sides but nothing spectacular. To be honest I was also expecting a lot more raison taste to be present. I think it turned out a great brew that is out there and extreme but still well balanced enough for the craft brew drinking population.

 363 characters

Photo of ujsplace
3.78/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a Hefewiezen glass...I just had it handy...

A: Burnt amber, not much head, but what is there is creamy whitish with ok lacing...

S: Sweet caramel malt, and woody oak, alcohol and some dark, overipened rasin-like fruits.

T: Caramel malt, rasins, burnt woodsy spice and a strong malt finish. Alchohol is definiely there, but not overdone.

M: Medium, mild carbonation dry alcoholic finish.

D: The abv and warming presence limits this to a nice, warmer, spicy drinking brew that can catch up rather quickly. Overall, another good offering from Dogfish Head...

 572 characters

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!)

 1,081 characters

Photo of magine
3.57/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an oversized wine glass.

Pours a carmel brown brew (mahogany), with an of white head that fades rapidly, no real lacing to speak of.

Smells of sweet fruits (raisins), sweet malts. Can pick up the smell of alcohol as well and some spices.

Has a slight syrupy taste in there as well. Has a very light bodied taste and mouthfeel. A bit of an odd tasting brew.

This brew is a decent tasting brew. Nothing special - kind of an odd mix of flavors for me. It is a solid tasting brew. To be honest I was a bit disappointed. Would not seek it out again, certainly not for a full case.

 593 characters

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

Despite being a very good beer, Raison d'être is the least exciting beer by DFH so far. maybe i've been predisposed by the fact that all others have been quite intenseley flavoured while this one seems to be a softer, more euro-inclined beer.

But a fine one nonetheless.

Deep brown pour with a dirty white head with generous lacing, tone is doubtless mahogany as they describe it. smell is very discrete, some alcohol some incense. fruity, very belgian.

the taste is at first quite nice, sweet fruity blend maybe dominated by a sort of apricot-ish feel with an alcohol rear, but i was a bit saddened as it's hop-free at the end, seemed a bit watery or as though something was missing.

Regardless, the beer seems like a sessionable belgian which gives it a good mark by my standards.

 787 characters

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

This beer pours a dark bronze, almost reddish color with a light caramel head that has a decent retention. Pours very clear.

It has a very nice floral, spicy, and slightly hoppy aroma with a hint of alcohol in the nose.

Dogfish Head has made a nicely balanced, slightly sweet and malty, almost spicy taste. Hints of molasses touch the tastebuds as well as slightly fruity grape flavor. Taste of alcohol lingers in the aftertaste.

Has a slightly heavy, medium to full bodied brew, quite what comes to be expected from a stong Belgian Dark Ale. Not very carbonates and a little think on the tongue.

I personally enjoy the slightly sweeter, heavy, full bodied Belgian Ale so I would definitely have another as well as recommend it to others, however, it would not make my top 25 beers or even my top 10 of this style.

 818 characters

Photo of bonsreeb85
4.03/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Velvety beige/off white head sits atop a deep mahogony/cherry wood colored body. Beer leaves nice lacing on its way down the DFH signature glass.

S - carmalized sugar, belgian yeast that is both sour and spicy, a wee-bit of alcohol also makes it's presence known, along w/ dates, plums and raisins(surprise!)The smell is a bit vineous, and kinda sour, like fermented grapes.

T - Roasted malts a'plenty, followed by flavors very characteristic of this type of Belgian(dark fruits and a certain spice I can never pinpoint)Finally a mildly bitter and satisfying close.

MF - medium carbonation, medium full body, and an overall slick and smooth mouthfeel, not bad.

D - yet another good brew from DFH. not my fave, but nothing to shake your finger at either. A solid American brewed Belgian Dark Ale, pleny of flavor. Solid

 827 characters

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

a- dark reddish copper with thin head

s- Faint sweet, dark fruit, red wine and grainy scents

t- nice malty flavor with a dark fruit/red wine taste with alcohol bite to finish

m- thicker coating texture, slight lingering flavor and feel

d-alcohol hidden well but comes out while finishing and lingers slightly.

 313 characters

Photo of merryjoulton
4.03/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a gorgeous crystal clear rosy brown color with a nice little tan head that laces with every sip. I caught some raisins and malt, yeast, bread and spices on the aroma. Taste is musty and malty. Mouthfeel is thick and drinkability is good as well.

 251 characters

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

The last of an assortment of DFH 'souvenirs' from my last trip south of the 49th parallel...the 4th of July seems a decent occasion as any to polish it off.

This beer pours a clear, dark ruddy brown colour, with minimal head, and no lacing. Quick out of the gate, I suppose. It smells of subtle roasted caramel malt, bittersweet chocolate, a little vinous essence, and a bit of bitter coffee. The taste is lightly roasted caramel malt, a tad chocolate candy-like, a bit of booze, dark fruit, and earthy hops. The carbonation is moderate, the body thick and viscous, with the booze well-integrated, and an off-dry sweet candy malt finish. This seems much more like a brown ale, a style I don't usually care for, but is also more of a ramped-up American version, and is thus quite tasty.

 786 characters

Photo of bsp77
3.13/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Snifter.

Appearance: Orangish-reddish-brown, reminds me of some Scotch Whiskeys. Turns a bright mahogany in the light. Not much head once the active bubbles subside. Looks nice, but not sure it looks like a beer.

Smell: Dark sweet fruit, rum, slight banana, trace of alcohol. Not as fragrant as many strong Belgians.

Taste: Mostly sweet alcohol with notes of molasses and raisins. Doesn't seem very Belgian, and not as much taste as I would like.

Feel: Somewhat full body, fairly flat, syrupy, with some chewiness and definite warming sensation from the alcohol.

Drinkability: Slow sipper, but not really the type of beer I want to sip all night long. Way too alcoholic, especially since it is only 8%. My first disappointment from DFH.

 781 characters

Photo of theghost3
3.6/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep, dark brown with ruby highlights. There's a 2-finger head that quickly disappears. Minimal lacing.

The smell is strong of raisins, molasses, & roasted malts. The taste is mainly raisins, cherry, and molasses, but there's also a trace of coffee malts. The mouth feel is fairly smooth, but it's a little flat.

This is a drinkable beer, but I'm not sure it's a Belgian Strong Dark. It has some of that style's qualities, but it also has some qualities of the American craft styles.

 495 characters

Photo of MeisterBurger
3.23/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a wonderfully deep, dark, inky amber with a nice 1/4" head that dies down to a small island. Spider web like lacing.

The smell is chocolaty and delicious. Roasted malt and a slight metallic sourness, a little buttery and just a slightly solventy booziness.

The taste is brown sugar, caramel, slight chocolate, overripe oxidized pears and almost a grape like fruitiness contrasted by the mildest of mild bitterness and a hint of spice. The 8% alcohol seems well hidden at first, but gets a little hot as the beer warms. Sort of like a malty, watered down cough syrup.

The mouthfeel is okay, with a medium body and medium carbonation.

Overall an okay if not stunning beer.

 680 characters

Photo of heath1agnew
3.9/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

appearance- pours a dark brown with a half finger head and lacing is visible as well as carbonation bubbles.

smell- dark sugar with a touch of alcohol in the nose.

taste and mouthfeel- picked up brown sugar flavor pretty strong, at no point was i able to pick up raisons, but hey im not a professional i just like to drink beer. nice molasses flavor as well. the abv was hidden very well in this beer to me, it was there but not overpowering at all.
mouthfeel was medium and nice even carbonation.

drinkability- not bad, but maybe to sweet at times.

 552 characters

Photo of SykDoc
3.73/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a tulip. It pours a very deep red with a 3 inch thick, dense light-beige head that quickly reduces to around the edges and a thin comb-over.

The aroma is primarily dark fruits and a caramel malt sweetness. I also pick up some brandy notes in there.

The taste presents similar to the nose with some dark fruity and caramel malt sweetness and a bit of brandy. I also add the taste of raisin above and beyond the dark fruit, and it was more prominent with food, (smoked whitefish).

The mouthfeel was a bit weak to me. It seemed thin and light bodied, initially with a thickness that seemed to linger with a mild dryness. A little light on the carbonation, as well.

Overall, this is a reasonable beer to drink. I don't believe I would want more than one in a sitting, but will certainly finish this and enjoy it while it lasts.

 855 characters

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

APPEARANCE: A dark burgundy, slightly rusty brown brew with just the slightest of head, and almost no lacing.

AROMA: An extremely malty, sweet smell, with a slightly spicy rum or sweet/spicy "alcohol" smell like brandy or something.

FLAVOR: A definitely malt front note, with wonderfully smooth sweet caramel, date, and molasses notes. Also a a very noticeable flavor of grape or raisins, green raisins? This is not too sweet, but it is sweet, with little to no hop bitterness here.

PALATE: A medium bodied brew, that is pretty well balanced. No bitterness, no notes of alcohol, all about the sweet malts and fruit flavors.

MOUTH FEEL: A somewhat thick almost syrupy brew. This beer is extremely lightly carbonated, but is still rich and flavorful.

NOTES: The beer is a rich, creamy, lightly carbonated 8% ABV beer that I have to say I think would be best as a desert beer. I am a big IPA, DIPA, DIIPA hop-bomb beer drinker, but I could easily take a couple of these down as an end to a meal. I think this would go particularly well after a steak or the like. Something hardy!

 1,086 characters

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

Presentation: 12oz bottle in snifter.

Appearance: Very small head with very little retention. Dark Ruby red or "deep mahogany" if you go by the bottle. No problems with chill haze as others mentioned, its clear and you can see the bubbles. Does have a slightly thick lacing however does not cling to the glass.

Smell: Dark fruit, caramel rum-like.

Taste: Caramel malt especially in the after-taste. Grapes, raisins and other pitted fruits. Not immensely complex. A little on the sweeter side

Mouthfeel: Average, nothing remarkable, but nothing that bothers me.

Drinkability: This beer is average for the style. While this is not a bad beer by any means, it lacks the complexity of other Belgian strongs or strong ales in general. I prefer the chimay or the unibroue offerings I've had. I'm a a fan of Belgian styles but this lacks a lot of complexity. Average at best for the style. For the money I'd step up to something different.

 941 characters

Photo of ljbrisson
3.95/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a hazy dark amber into a goblet, with a thin orange-tinted head that quickly receded to a thin cap and left little lacing. Aroma was dark fruits, bread, nuts, caramel, toffee. Mouthfeel was a little thick with medium carbonation which stayed throughout the good length of time I took to enjoy this brew. Taste was lots of chocolate, caramel, a bit of toasted nuts toward the finish, sweet, dark fruits, very warming. Drinkability is moderate due to the complexity of the brew. Overall I enjoyed this brew and would try it again. I have one left in the six pack and they never disappoint while watching a good movie.

 622 characters

Photo of lynchmob9
2.94/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

Had good intentions of liking...still trying. Appearance - Deep amber, nice frothy lingering head. Clear copper. Smell - burnt orange, cinnamon raisin toast w/ cream cheese. Taste - overly sweet, malty...candied tree bark. Styrofoam cup...stale hot chocolate. Mouthfeel - long, lingering, intense, interesting...I like the mouthfeel as is very dynamic and complex. Drinkability - to review but otherwise would never reorder or repurchase or recommend. Sorry DFH!

 462 characters

Photo of BDLbrewster
3.3/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Pours a rich amber with a faint red hue. Decent sized light bubbly head that recedes leaving thin sticky lacing. Whole bunch of visible carbonation.

Smells sugary, almost candy-like. Small amount of alcohol detected as well. Some slightly fruity notes detected under all that sweet sweet beet sugar.

Tastes of dark malts right away, not burnt but nice, smooth and mildly rich. There is a heavy push of sugar as well, not over the top sweet but very complimentary to the taste. There is almost no bitterness, but there is just a shred of heat in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel reminds me of flat soda. Thin and very little carbonation, this is not a bad thing but just caught me off guard a tad.

Drinkability is not great, but not bad. The ABV isn't too high so a couple could be in order. That being said, I wish that I had more than one.

 837 characters

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

Pours a rich brown color with an average egg-shell colored head that settled into a sparse cap. The aroma is of light toasted malt and some brown sugar and vanilla. The taste is of toasted raisin bread, honey and brown sugar, a bit woody and hints of fruit. Seems to be an earthy hop presence in the end. The brew has a full body with fizzy carbonation, finishes sweet and slightly sticky. Another unique brew from DFH. Seems to be a Belgian inspired brown ale, not sure that it is a BSDA. Not much fruitiness, sugary sweet with a nice toasted malt.

 549 characters

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.

 933 characters

Photo of soupyman10
3.44/5  rDev -6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Well I've never been a fan of this one in the bottle - basically, it's one of those DFH experiments that just didn't quite work for me. Too many weird flavors. But I've realized that on-tap some of the DFH beers take on a totally different life, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Unfortunately, it still didn't really do it for me. Poured a deep dark brown color with a really weak head and no lacing to speak of. Aromas are those same meaty, chocolatey maltiness with some strange over-ripe fruit. Body was alright, but still. The beer's not a total mess (I mean, I'm talking relative to other DFHs, not to macro sludge), but it's just not my thing.

 649 characters

Photo of rtratzlaff
2.51/5  rDev -31.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Raison d'etre "Reason for being" pours a deep ruby reddish color with a thin white head that sticks around and sticks to the glass here and there. The aromas are sticky sweet maltiness with dark fruit. There's not much spice in the nose. It seems a bit simple for a BSDA in the nose. The flavor is pretty much the same, not bad, but just lacking in complexity. No clove, no spice. Prunes are there in full force. A bittering in the finish with a slight hint at anise but nothing much more than a thought. Green raisins? Yeah.
The mouthfeel is full and fluffy. To style, this beer falls far short; however, as a beer in general, its not bad. I would recommend this for someone with a thing for malt forward beers with a slight Belgian quality.

 743 characters

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

Poured from a 12oz out of the fridge, and allowed to warm.

Appearance: Light brown and clear with very little head. No lacing. Lots of tiny bubbles.

Smell: At first, nothing but a whiff of alcohol. As it warms, you get some sweetness and belgian yeasty smell. Not too impressive.

Taste: Its fine. Nothing bad or offputting really, but nothing fantastic. You can tell its supposed to be a belgian style. Its sweet with a little dark fruitiness and spice. Obvious alcohol there.

Mouthfeel: Bubbly and thin. Leaves much to be desired.

Drinkability: Its ok, I'll drink it if you give it to me. Far from great.

Not at all bad, but I expect more from DFH... They make some great stuff. Don't stop experimenting guys...

 718 characters

Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.66 out of 5 based on 4,295 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.

    Learn More
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.

    Learn More
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.

    Learn More