Raison D'Être | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

4,294 Ratings
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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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Ratings: 4,294 |  Reviews: 1,772
Photo of indiapaleale
3.26/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a deep dark amber and ruby colored hue. The head is about half a finger high and seems to be glued to the top of this beer. Its not going anywhere anytime soon.

Smells sort of toasty and a bit like coffee. That can't be right, can it? Some nice sweet sugary tones come out along with a very slight vinous smell.

Taste is VERY malty. Very sweet like brown sugar. Not a whole lot else jumps out right away. I'm waiting for the green raisins but I'm thinking thats not going to happen. There is an ever so slight taste of bitter fruit in the finish. Maybe that could be the alcohol though, this one is pretty hefty.

Personally, I love some of the other Dogfish Head brews a lot more than this one. But, thats just my opinion. Give it a shot and form your own. Nothing they brew can be considered anything but good and most of them are great. This one's unique thats for sure!

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

As the bottle say this ia a Mahogany ale. pours very much a deep mahogany color. Light white head which disipates quickly and leaves slight lacing.

Smell does not let one aroma sneak out over another. I smell the rasians, that however is likely to be the power of suggestion. Maltiness can be smelled if only slightly.

Flavor is alot like the smell. Nothing is over powering. There are definite layers of flavor, but they are all delicate. The idea of the raisian flavor is already wedged in to your mind. Sweet flavor to the brew is nice. Not really bitter, slightly spiced.

Mouth feel is creamy. Very smooth for 8% abv.

Nothing stands out too much with this brew. Just a very solid offering.

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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 Bitterbill
2.78/5  rDev -24%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

I got this bottle in a trade with Wasatch. Thanks John!

The pour reveals a clear reddish amber liquid with a 2 finger head of foam and plenty of lacing. Very good head retention.

The smell has notes of wood, bubblegum, candy sugar, and a fruitiness.

The taste is....different. I get a musky flavour mixed with some caramel malt, along with bubblegum, some candy sugar, but, I can't get over the muskiness, if that is the proper way to describe it. Whole lot of alcohol going on in the taste as well, and too much warming for the abv, imho. I'm drinking this at near room temperature and maybe that isn't the way to go but under these conditions, it's not working for me at all. The body is defintely on the watery side for me..

I'm glad I got to try this brew but it just doesn't do it for me, unlike the majority of DFH's brews. 1 bottle is more than enough and I wouldn't seek this out again, for sure. To me, the flavours are a mess.

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Photo of tonytuffnuts
4.4/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This might be the most underrated beer on the site! This is my second sitting w this same 6er. The first wasn't too earth-shattering, but 6-mos later: wow.
Gorgeous dark amber with red-ish/orange hues. Pours to a modest manila head that fades to a thin ring around the circumference and leaves an island in the middle that looks like a rain cloud on the doppler-forcast.
Brown sugar, dark mahogany, Belgian malt scent. A subtle, floral hop character accents a sweetness that must be the contribution of the raisin. Deep inhalation makes me think of a whiskey with muted alcohol.
Taste is well balanced. Dark brown sugar, rye-like maltiness. The mahogany's contrabution is evident. A little alcohol and a massaging, fine carbonation. The finish leaves a candy sweetness on my tongue like hard caramel.
This beer is a delicacy that for some reason makes me think of a finer wine. Exquisite (with a Creme Brulee) and sophisticated.

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Photo of ExMachina1
4.43/5  rDev +21%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I bought this beer before realizing that it had FRUIT in it. Normally, I avoid fruit-containing beers as, said fruit tends to dominate the character of the beer and, frankly, if I wanted fruit I'd have bought a peach.

However, the investment in the six pack (and it IS and investment!) warranted a tasting and I was flabbergasted by the result. Simply put, this beer is exceptional.

Color is as described (by Dogfish Head), ie, mahogany. It's also got a good dose of protein in the head and the lacing hangs around for the duration. Beer is crystal clear.

Aroma is mysterious but very rich. I think the last reviewer got it right when he said that if he hadn't known that there were raisins in the beer, he wouldn't have know what was going on here. As it is, the beer smells inviting, al beit a bit intimidating. After all, who's well-versed in the quaffing of dried fruit?!?

The flavor is great. Complex, like a (barley) wine though w/o the alcohol punch. Very deep.

Finish is clean. There's a noticeable sticky sweetness on the lips, but nothing cloying on the palate. Other than that, you are simply left with the memories of the fruit, and a nagginig invitation to take another sip.

Overall, a singular and outstanding beer!


PS, Brothers, what the hell were you drinking? (cuz it certainly wasn't THIS beer!)

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Photo of lpayette
4.32/5  rDev +18%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

While browsing BA, happened to come upon this beer just as I was drinking some. To my surprise I hadn't reviewed it yet...

Appearance is a deep and clear mahogany with about a finger of head. Not bad but nothing overly exciting. A bit of lacing.

Smell is not overly complex, but does contain some interesting notes of belgian candy sugar, sweet malts, hints of raisins (though honestly, I probably wouldn't have got that one if I didn't know it was in the recipe). Hops are very mild and way in the background as they should be.

The taste is much the same as the smell but enhanced by a creamy mouthfeel and more subtle complexities of clove, banana, and a slight hop bitterness at the finish. Damn near a weizenbock in taste really- but with a belgian-american twist. very good.

I must say, I think this beer is grossly under-rated. An excellent and inspiring example of how American brewers have pushed the traditional boundaries of specific beer styles.

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Photo of mobyfann
3.77/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Paid around $1.79 for a single...

Poured into a snifter, appeals a dark brown base, with a medium white head, moderate head retention, and no lacing. The aroma is earthy fruit, like dates and grapes coupled with a mild malt character, nothing fancy yet pleasant.

The taste is a little bitter, but in the good way, followed by a spicy malt character with limited carbonation, medium-bodied and no sign of the fruit like the aroma?!? M&D both fit the bill, the spicy tone was a little harsh on the palette, at 8% its very drinkable, if these spices do it for you and this is what you expect from a Belgian Strong Dark Ale.

Final Thought: Haven't played around too much with the style, but it is a solid offering from a great brewery.

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Photo of Shonkers
4.45/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is my first review, so excuse me while I pop my cherry....

The other disclaimer here is that I'm a fanboy of Dogfish Head beers--I love their offerings, I love their style, I love their off-centered theme....

Drinking from a Tulip glass after pouring from a bottle bought in Dayton, Ohio for the princely sum of $9.99/six pack.

Color is a beautiful cherrywood hue, minimal head due to my insistence that beer should be imbibed at temperatures near freezing (sue me).

Smell reminds me of molasses.

Taste is almost overly sweet, but then again, I like sweet. Molasses, with a following bite of alcohol.

Mouthfeel is near perfect. Daddy likes.

In addition to liking cold beer, I like high alcohol content. I'm in the military, and I like my beers like I like my women: intoxicating. Sessionable? Hells yes!

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Photo of GFSchwab
4.13/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured a dark brown with a thin, off white head.

WHat I really loved about this beer was how layered an complex the flavor really was. It comes on with a very chewy, toffee like taste, giving way notes of port, and maple.

Then on the way down, a clean hoppy finish finish, tied with a little bit of an ethanol bite.

An citrus marinated fowl woould go great with this beer.

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Photo of Redwood21
4.2/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I put off trying this beer because it has the word raison in it...i hate them...but this beer is actually really good. Its not a wow factor beer, it wont bowl you over, but you know what it just tastes clean and good.
A: the head could be better but at 8 % its hard to complain. i actually really really dig the color. it has this almost red amber oak stain hue that glows...good stuff

S: sweet, not sugary sweet, ripe dark fruit sweet plum almost with an almost caramel finish, maybe its roasted something, but it finished more simmered

T very clean i have read some notes of it being offensive or too much of one thing, but i actually really like it. its sweet but in a dried fruit (dare i say raisin) way...no it does not remind me of raisins which for me is a good thing. it even has an almost smoke in the back to bolter the sweetness...is this not what we call balance ppl? i was going to give the taste a 4, but as i sip and enjoy it i bumped it to 4.5....its not groundbreaking so no 5, but it does nothing wrong and just makes me so happy i tried it.

Biggest surprise in a while...i expected to hate this beer, the name put me off, reviews weren't favorable....but you know what this is a damn tasty brew worth trying.

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Photo of SchmoTerp
3.8/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This staple of DFH pours a deep mahogany (as described on the bottle) with medium to low head. Not surprisingly, it smells and tastes strongly of raisons. It's fairly easy and smooth enough to drink with a good mouthfell, but I think drinking several of these would get old due to the raison taste - towards the end of the drink it started to taste more bitter than sweet.

I'd certainly recommend this one, but not something I'd get everyday.

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Photo of PatrickJR
4.42/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12 oz nonic pint glass.

A - Deep, transparent brown with one finger head that receded into thin collar. No lacing.

S - Roasted malts, with a coffee-like overtone. Dark fruit and some vegetal characteristics as well.

T - Amazing. Sweet malt upfront, but over-ripe fruit follows, with a slight sourness like a good porter. Coffee as well with a little chocolate thrown in. Ample hop bitterness in the finish. Alcohol is well hidden, with only a minute appearance near the end.

M - Medium bodied, smooth, and lightly carbonated.

D - A great beer to have a few of. The ABV certain sneaks up, but otherwise I could drink these all night.

I'm actually surprised to see that this beer is rated as low as it is, because I find it one of the most engaging beers from the American craft circuit. This beer combines some of the most desirable aspects from a good pale ale, porter, and mild stout.

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Photo of generallee
4.23/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This poured a lovely mahogany, reddish/brown color. On top is a thick white head that faded off quickly to just a thin ring around the glass. The aroma is full of sweet roasted malts and raisins. The flavor is full of roasted malts, caramel, toast and green grapes. A light hop bitterness balances out the sweetness. Its medium to full body and soft carbonation gives it a velvety smooth mouth feel. This is a good Belgian ale that I will be enjoying again real soon.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.39/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured a nice mahogany with a very disappointing head. Aroma is full of sugar, alcohol, and caramel and dried fruit..myabe raisins. Quite nice. The taste is nice as well, fruity, with roasted malt flavors all thru it. Maybe the sweetness is a little run in it. The mouthfeel is quite different to say the least. The ABV is 8 and it shows. No way I could or would want to drink more than one.

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Photo of Rzzzzz
4.17/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Chimay glass and hoisted in celebration of the Sharks Game 7 victory over Calgary.

Dark copper with good clarity and very little head. Aromas of Malt, raisins, toffee, chocolate, wood. Taste is sweet malt and caramel up front followed up with some raisin, butterscotch and a touch of hop bitterness at the end. Medium to full bodied, slightly sticky with a velvety mouthfeel.

In a nutshell, sweet as a game 7 victory. And there's a shark on the label.

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

I love the names of Dogfish Head's brews. I enjoyed this one chilled in my Duvel bubbler. Poued a fine, clear amber color. Smells if dried raisons and mild cancied sugars. Tastes of sweet green raison with a tad alcohol dryness. This was a pretty decent brew.

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Photo of Lexluthor33
3.22/5  rDev -12%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured a copper brown with a small head. The smell was rum,raisin,fruits and alcohol. The taste was of raisins,caramel and alcohol. It was sweet,but the alcohol dominated and it had a metallic taste. The feel was sticky and syrupy. I feel this was a non session beer and it was fine to have one, but did not desire anymore.

Notes: Good intentions all around,but this one missed it's mark and needs some fine tuning. By no means is this a bad beer,just not a good one. Too much alcohol dominance and not well balanced. It supposedly won best American beer. Go figure.
Final thought is I will not purchase this for some time. I expected more.

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Photo of Ben4881
3.93/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Raison D'Être
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

This brew pours translucent amber with red highlights. The head is maybe half an inch somewhere between cream and white. It hangs around momentarily, and then retreats to the amber glow below leaving no trace of lace behind it.

Raison D'Être has a very sweet and subtle aroma. The scent is rather faint and I have to really get in there to get a good whiff. Malt and caramel notes emerge leaving me with intense curiosity for the taste.

Coinciding with the smell, the taste begins on a sweet note. Then things get more complex. I can taste molasses and maybe a hint of fruit up front. Then the taste begins to turn and the delicious hop bitterness slaps the back of my tongue and the flavor of alcohol hits the back of my throat. Upon swallowing, the fruity sweetness returns to my lips while the hop bitterness lingers at the back of my tongue and the roof of my mouth. This is an intriguingly complex flavor that begs for another sip.

The appearance does not suggest a very thick mouthful. While Raison D'Être is by no means as thick as a stout, it has more body than I anticipated, a welcome surprise. I would classify the carbonation level as comfortable. There is certainly carbonation present and is easily detected, however, it does not overwhelm the senses and destroy the taste buds.

Yes sir, I would like another. Two would definitely be my limit. 8% ABV is not particularly high, but Raison D'Être has a sweet flavor that could turn on my stomach if I had a few too many. I would highly recommend as a night cap any night. This is a fine creation and I applaud the efforts going on in Delaware.

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

Bottled on 10-15-07, consumed in March of 2008.

A: Poured into an Augustijn chalice. Body is dark amber with orangey-red highlights. Small beige head settles fast. Very little apparent carbonation.

S: Sweet and sugary. Brown sugar and candied sugar.

T: Like the nose, the sweetness dominates the taste -- caramel malt and candied sugar, along with brown sugar. Also some fruity sweetness that reminds me of apple skins. Alchohol heat shows up at the back of the sip and down the throat.

M: Medium-bodied in heft, some prickly carbonation and an overall smooth experience.

D: OK. Too sweet for my taste.

Notes: But for the smooth mouthfeel and prickly carbonation, I would not have been shocked if you'd told me this was an English Barleywine. Too sweet for me and not what I expected for the style.

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

Drank this one in Chicago too...it rained for a long time. Chilled in toilet tank of fancy hotel beyond my means. I didn't pay for it, so I contributed generously to the beer-tasting menu.
A-Poured brown amber with decent off-white head and very nice lacing. Drank out of wine glass.
S-Green raisin, malt, diacetyl, toffee.
T-Rich malt w/nuts and toffee, butterscotch diacetyl, toffee, raisins, and candy sugar molasses.
M-Rich robust body. Very harmonious balance of sweetness and dry roast.
D-Smooth and tasty. Alcohol is well-hidden. I would buy this again.

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Photo of kurtissellen
2.39/5  rDev -34.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Poured into an oversized wine glass which produced a small ½ finger head that immediately disappeared. Nice reddish brown color with some carbonation. It had a strange aroma that smelled a little like bacon not too impressive. The taste was similar with hints of bacon, decomposing leaves, and campfire smoke. I really didn't care for this one at all and came close to just dumping it out. I'm not sure if I just got a bad batch of this or what because I have enjoyed all the other Dogfish Head beers I've tried. I'll have to try this one again in the future to see if something was wrong with the bottle I tried.

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


Had over at my parent's house on Thursday night before dinner. Poured from the bottle into a pint glass. Pours a light brown with moderate head. Nothing in the smell or taste. A relatively mediocre beer that didn't really deliver from Dogfish Head. Probably wouldn't purchase this one at my own will.

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Photo of mooseisloose
3.77/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Smells of many things..hints of coffee and brown sugar and butterscocth. Poured into..what else..a Raison D'Etre goblet. Had it for a while but never tried the beer. Pours to an opaque medium brown that lets slight light through. Taste is very complex. Heavy texture and sweet but also sour. Malty with only trace hops evident. The AC is evident but not overly so. The lacing is incredible, looks like wine, the best i've ever seen. This is a delight in a goblet. Dogfish continues to delight.

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Photo of thirtysixbelow
3.89/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

a - dark reddish brown with a tan head

s - caramel, chocolate, yeast, grapes, alcohol

t - caramel and chocolate again but I think I get some raisins this time. very sweet. alcohol very present.

m - slippery and oily, not incredibly heavy or carbonated

d - this was interesting. As a belgian strong dark ale, it's not something I would compare to a chimay blue. The alcohol is very present and the mouthfeel is a little unappetizing. It is also very sweet to the point of almost unenjoyable. I had this experience with the sam adams double bock, and this beer was running on the thin ice that the sam adams fell through. I can say I had it, but if I want a belgian strong dark ale I'll have a chimay.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.66 out of 5 based on 4,294 ratings.
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