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

An initially vinous nose turns into rubbing alcohol as it warms. You can smell the grape/raisin fruit as well as other sugary fruits. Carmel melds with fruit and sugar to form a tantilzing dessert-like sweetness. Very silky to the tongue with light carbonation -- there really was almost no head on this beer except with a brutally aggressive pour. Alcohol gets obvious pretty fast. Aftertaste has an odd, almost-roasted bitterness that sweeps up everything but a barely lingering SunMaid raisin kick. Tossing any notion of style into the wind, I think this may be a bit of a love/hate beer. It's unique, and the alcohol is a bit noticeable. But it's interesting, flavorful, and aromatic -- and that counts for a lot in my book.

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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 smakawhat
4.4/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

It's been a long road. It's time to revist this beer from such a long time ago. Dated October 28th 2011, poured into an official Dogfish Head Raison D'etre goblet. Loved this so much back in the day I bought the glasses for it.

Not much head produced barley a finger through a center punch, what is there is a faint caramel/tan that falls and leaves a good collar and slight puck. What a gorgeous body color this is though, red amber and clear with these brown edges. It really looks like a ruby.

Nose is slighty raisin, but it smells like baked fresh fruitcake. Cherries, carmalized sugars, fresh baked bread. Topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Real impressive.

I am going to knock my taste and mouthfeel score down slightly here. Slightly wetter palate than most Belgian Strong Dark Ales, but misses the viscosity angle. Bready tasty action in the fore front, but not much of the sweetness or fruit character comes through. Finish is a little citrus like, with a little carbonation prickly sting and raisin, it's still quite neat as I remember it.

Overal I still really like this, I think my enthusiasm for this beer though has gone down having tried more of this style from other producers in Belgium. However, I still really enjoy it, strangely I use to be able to get it more often but I rarely see it around as much. Too bad.

Old Review (Feb 6th 2010)

Hands down my go to beer, Raison D'etre is a perfectly bodied, complicated aroma of raisin and somewhat dark bread bouquet. Has a thick mouthfeel and has a wonderful lingering finish as well.

Had on tap and in bottles and both manage to be downright refreshing when well.

I say well, because the beer does have a SHORT shelf life and it's very easy to get a bad one, or have one from a tap that has been sitting too long. When you do, it becomes extremely sour tasting and the bouquet is dead.

Even still I absolutely love this beer. (4,4,5,4.5,4.5)

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

Appearance: Deep reddish amber/brown color with a small head that disappeared into a light lacing on the surface.

Smell: Sweet and fruity. I swear I could actually smell the raisins.

Taste: Lots of complex layers of flavors. I tasted sweet malt and nutty flavors and subtle winey notes.

Mouthfeel: Creamy and prickly from the carbonation with a somewhat dry after finish. Warming sensations follow soon after.

Drinakbility: At first I wasn’t sure I liked it, but it’s a very complex tasting beer and it grew on me. Goes down easily but packs a punch. Goes well by itself on a fall or winter night, but would definitely taste great with prime rib, roast beef, or a roasted turkey (could definitely take the place of a bottle of wine at the dinner table). This is probably one of the most interesting beers that I have tasted so far. Liked it a lot and would definitely buy it again.

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

A: Clear reddish brown color, thin head, slight lacing.

S: Very pleasant aroma, nice malt and fruit scents

T: Very nice malt flavor, with balanced hoppiness. Slight sweetness from the raisins.

MF: Bold

D: I like this, but I'm not too sure if I could drink a lot of them. Excellent with the steak I had for dinner though!

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Photo of Insomnicat
4.4/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

A - Just what you'd expect. Chocolate brown. 2 fingers of head

S - Caramel over malt with some slight hops

T - follows the smell perfectly.

M - very heavy and thick. This is a nursing beer if I've ever had one. I happen to like thick beer, so I gave it a pretty high rating

D - Sure this is a session beer. if you're a sailor or a lumberjack.

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Photo of Swedgin_Wu
4.4/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

bottle poured into a tulip.

Appearance - Deep mahogany with a nice 2 finger creme colored head.

Smell - Raisins, dark fruit, malts. very nice smell

Taste - very smooth. great american rendition of a belgian strong. the raisins and dark fruit dominate, with the alcohol hardly detectable (resminiscent of my favs like Rochefort and St Bernardus). candied sugar presence there as well. very drinkable

Mouthfeel - medium-heavy carbonation, medium bodied.

Overall - one of the first craft brews i tried back in the day, i bought it again to review recently and it was better than i remember (probably due to a more developed palette and experience with other belgian strongs). IMHO it's rated a little low overall. it holds its own with Belgian born strongs. Love the raisin presence

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Photo of Halcyondays
4.4/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle,

A: Pours a dark brown, with ruby-red highlights when held up to the light. Nice head, with fair retention, with no real lacing that I like in a Belgian-style beer.

S: Lighter than I expected, but I picked up notes of dark fruit, brown sugar, and rum.

T: Very sweet, heavy notes of dried fruit and baking sugar, with a delectable molasses finish. A bit of an alcohol burn is detectable as the beer warms, but it doesn't seem out of place, it mixes well with the flavours. A very tasty beer overall.

M: Smooth, creamy and rich, slightly warming, nice on a cold November night.

D: One of my favourite beers from Dogfish Head, Raison D'Etre is a class act, one of the best American-made Belgians on the market in my opinion. However, since its not distributed here, I can't enjoy it as often as I'd like to.

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Photo of roddwolff
4.41/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Taken on a rainy afternoon in july 2010. Served in a gouden carolus goblet. Look: Purplish, reddish, very bright color, like a glass of red wine, ephemeral head with acceptable lacing. Smell: strong character of coffee malt, sugar and raisins. Taste: Lots of coffee malt sweetened with grape passes and a spicy hop background. Mouthfeel: Very bitter, creamy, viscous body and little gasification, no noticeable the degree of alcohol. Drinkability: a strong belgian style with a lot of coffeee, an excellent way to hide the abv.

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Photo of gabeshanks
4.41/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is my favorite Dogfish beer. It wasn't always this way. I first enjoyed 90 minute IPA most, then branched out to Palo Santo, 120 Minute, Indian Pale Ale, and Burton Baton.

I enjoyed each in it's own right, but when it comes down to it, after my pallette for Dogfish beers has settled a bit, Indian Brown and Raison stand out as being the most quaffable and tasty.

90 minute is a jem, and all their beers are better than 99.9% out there, but these 2 mainstream brews in their portfolio stand out for many reasons.

Firstly they are immenantly quaffable. While not session beers per se, drinking one of each in a sitting is a perfect progression. Each has complex flavors, crisp sweetness, burnt notes, and a clean finsih. Each hides the ABV beautifully.

I would choose Raison D'etre above em all. It's crisp, complex, quaffable, high in ABV, refreshing, and trancends seasons. A great beer; but let it grow on you with repeat visits

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Photo of Cyberkedi
4.41/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This ale is a beautiful deep reddish brown and has a thick, fine-bubbled, persistent head. Aroma is strong and hoppy but not overwhelming. Flavor is mainly hoppy, but it has some maltiness and hints of molasses. The sweetness and bitterness balance each other nicely and add up to a very enjoyable beer.

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

A simple whiff of this beer foretells the complexity and deliciousness that awaits. Fragrant and compelling, the nose boasts scents such as oak, toffee, molasses and turbinado sugar, coffee, fresh-cut wheat, plum, and port wine, in addition to an earthiness that defies my description.

On the tongue, the ale is no less impressive, hitting with an immediate burst of sugars and dark-roasted grains (chocolate malts, dark cocoa, molasses) that swiftly turns into a wonderful blend of port wine, nuanced fruit esters (plum, grape, pear) and toasted grains. Don't be put off by the label's notice that this is brewed with beet sugar and green raisins, because neither of those flavors stands out--in fact, were they not printed on the label, you wouldn't know they were there. Instead, the esters from those ingredients become part and parcel of an incredible sugary dance that will leave your tongue reeling. Carbonation seems slightly high, but not overwhelming, and the hops provide a nice background fuzz.

Truly an excellent ale. It's easy to see why this one won "American Beer of the Year" in 2000.

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

This is my first Dogfish Head beer. I have to say that I am really enjoying it! I plan on trying the 60 and 90min IPA's soon...

This beer has excellent mouthfeel and taste. one of the better beers I've had so far.

I will try other Dogfish Head beers in the future!

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

Appearance: clear bronze. Wispy off white head.
Smell: rich, sweet, yeasty, fruity, and some floral as well. In a word, great.
Taste: more of the same. Not quite as complex as the nose but rich and bold and full.
Overall: just outstanding. Unusual and fantastic. One of the first 'big' beers I had some 6 years ago when I was turned onto craft. Seems small compared to the monsters I've had since, but this, unlike many beers that early on seemed top tier and later disappointed, is great with every revisit.

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

The beer after its disinterment from the 12-ounce brown bottle sets in the glass a brilliantly clear burnished copper color with a personable creamy light tan head, that erodes rather quickly, leaving a blanket of lace to obscure the glass. Nose has a nice malt sweetness with under tones of fusel alcohol, raisins and a slight musk smell also present, quite a treat for the old schnozzle, start is somewhat sweet with a big malt presence, the top is moderate in its feel to the palate. Finish is benignly acidic and the hop pertinent in their spicy bite, aftertaste has a wine like dryness, a yummy beer that I finally have available at all times, “Hell Yeah”!

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

Bottle. Great amber color, nice tan head decent lacing. Get the yeast and raisins/grape aromas right up front. Really tasty - clean, lots of flavor, maybe a little caramel or coffee hint to it. Love the grape/raisin flavor and find this a refreshing beer despite the 8% ABV. Nice sweetness/white wine thing happening. I can see where it could be polarizing with the love/hate thing going on, but I am in the love it category for sure. I bought a few more bottles.

Review from notes

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

The beer seems to me to be seriously underrated by many of the other writers here, but here goes, anyway. Appearance: Reddish orange, clear, prominent head which leaves some very nice lace. Smell: Sweet, some fruitness and spiciness from the fermentation. Flavor: Very smooth. There is a complex flavor, with a mixture of malty, spiciness, the sugars and raison add up the a dense mixture of dates, figs, and fruitcake like flavors, but the overall effect is clean and uncluttered, amazingly enough. I remember this beer when it first came out, and it was quite tasty but much rougher than it is now. It is clearly a model in eccentric brewing these days. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, and the overall drinkability is very high.

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

The Raison D'etre from DFH has been a beer that I have been waiting to try ever since it hit the Texas market. I've kind of taken my time getting around to it, but it was worth the self-imposed wait. This beer is GOOD. It's unusual combination of flavors make it a complex and difficult beer to pin down. I gleefully wrestled with it, though, and lived to tell the tale.

Raison D'etre poured with a minimal head atop a deep red body. Very nice looking despite the lack of foam. The nose was sweet and fresh, like opening a dewy bag of grapes in the grocery store.

The taste was incredibly hard to define. It was sweet and fruity, and different characters came through at different points during the course of the mug. It reminded me most of grapes or figs, with a rich malt backbone to keep things in perspective. It definitely wasn't dry or tart in any way. I got hints of other flavors as well, molasses maybe, a little bit of dark olives. Never a hint of the 8% ABV, though.

Good mouthfeel, very nice carbonation level. Excellent drinkability. I could have gone for another of these right away, despite the fact that it was essentially a very rich and sweet beer. I'd recommend this one to anyone looking for something a little bit offbeat and adventerous. Would make a great dessert beer, especially if paired with fruits or light cheeses. Good job.

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

Poured a single from Woodman's in Madison into a tulip glass.

Poured a pretty red chestnut color with a very minimal head that left an oily foam slick on the top. Visually, it was a browner version of an imperial stout.

Smelled sharp and sour, but in a good way. It said something about raisins on the bottle, and I can definitely smell those. Smelled like boozy raisins, a mild wine.

Taste was good but I don't have much to compare to since this was my first Belgian Ale. Sweet, malty, boozy and a little bit more hoppy than I expected. Fruity, but not as deeply so like an imperial stout, which I guess makes it just a little less "flavorful".

Slippery at first in my mouth, and then kind of a lingering stickiness. Not a bad at all, but something I didn't expect. Perhaps too much sugary fruit in the brew?

This reminds me an American brown ale without any nutty component. A touch pricey and hard to find but I'd swill these all day long if I could. Goes down easy, but provides a pleasant lingering element that prolongs satisfaction. Lots of booze is always a plus. It comes strongly recommended from me though it's unlike any beer I've had before.

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

This ale pours with a deep mahogany/redwood color and and head that fades quickly. For most beers I would say the quick fading head would be a negative, but I don't think it was a major distraction for this ale. The aroma coming from the glass takes your mind away from the head. The aroma is full of orchard odors, fruity and fresh, like a good Belgian ale. There is also a touch of alcohol in the aroma that hints to what is to come.

The taste and flavor is a complex arrangement of specialty malts followed by fruit and spice and finishing with a warmth of alcohol from the beet sugars. The alcohol stays with you long after the last sip. This makes for a very nice after dinner ale. This is also a nice sitting around the fire after long winter day ale. As the label states this ale has "a sense of purpose".

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

(12 oz bottle into tulip) I've been looking forward to this one for a long time! Poured a deep mahogany (as advertised) with a small frothy off white head that fell quickly. Nose is strong of raisin and pit fruit in general and was very appealing. The drink is very smooth and the beer has a medium body on the tongue. Hints of the alcohol dominate at first, but the aftertaste is of the fruit and malt which is a refreshing sweet finish. One of the better offerings from Dogfish Head to be sure!

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

Truly a fine, fine beer. Its head is a thing of poetry: ephemeral, shifting, wispy and sensuous. Its height and hue actually varies across the surface; with darker, greener, browner, and more olive-green spots alternating across the pocked landscape of foam.

I've tried this beer and been disappointed with its smell...but today it is excellent. Alcohol, esthers, raisins, cherries, berries, raspberries, faint citrus, and more that my humble nose can't make out. NOTE: I believe my failures with this beer have been due to serving it in a pint glass--do not do this! Instead, use a goblet.

Feels smooth yet textured on the tongue, with no bitterness whatever. Creamy in both mouthfeel and flavor. Sharp, like brie, and subtle. Smoky--literally, tastes like good cigar smoke.

Excellent with olives, chicken, and savory flavors.

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