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: 4,285
Photo of elNopalero
2.69/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of biglite351
2.69/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A - looks like a dark lager color. Heading towards brownish. Decent thick head.

S - original scent hit me badly. But I do not know why. After that it was a rather normal beer smell to Mr but with a little fruit.

T - very bland but with some fruit. Mild bitter after taste.

M - coats the mouth well. Very mild tingle on sides of front of tongue.

D - if it was at a party I would drink it, nut I would not buy it again.

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Photo of StoutHunter
2.7/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

I bought a bottle of Dogfish Head's Raison D'etre last weekend for $1.79 at The Lager Mill. So far I have been pretty impressed and interested with all the beers I have had from them, so I decided to give this one a try and see if it is as good as their other beers. No visible bottling date but I am pretty sure it's a 2011 vintage. Poured from a brown 12oz bottle into a snifter.

A- The label on this beer is like most Dogfish Head labels and is pretty plain, but at least it gives you an idea of what your getting into. It pours a clear dark amber color with two fingers worth of off white head that died down to a thin layer that stayed till the end.

S- Right off the bat this beer smells pretty sweet. The Belgian candied sugars really stand out in the aroma and are the first thing I notice along with a medium amount of booze. After I get past the sugar and alcohol there are some pleasant aromas of dark fruits, raisins, and a slight bit of spices.

T- The aroma is pretty damn close to what the flavor is like. Just like the aroma the first thing I pick is the Belgian candied sugar that is pretty damn sweet and very close to that cloying threshold. I pick up some sweet brown bread, dark fruits, brown sugar, and a slight bit of spices that I assume is from the yeast. The alcohol could have been hidden better, it sticks out a good deal and is a little warming, straight from the fridge I mainly got sugar and booze, but once it warmed up some of the better subtle flavors showed up.

M- Sticky and medium bodied with a medium light amount of carbonation that could have been kicked up a notch.

Overall I thought this was a pretty average beer that I really wasn't that into. In theory it sounded like a good choice since I like that raisin taste I get from malt heavy brews but this one was just far too sweet and unbalanced for me to like. I really don't like overly sweet beers so that was what I liked the least about this beer, but the flavors in the background that I picked up when it warmed up were nice and would have suited this beer better if they took the reigns and let the sugar and alcohol take the backseat. I don't think I will buy this again, if I am craving a Belgian Strong Dark Ale I will stick with my go to brew for that style, Trois Pistoles. I can't say I recommend this brew since it doesn't do a good job at representing it's style. This beer just didn't do it for me and is now my least favorite Dogfish Head Brew, sweet and boozy just don't work for me.

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Photo of GnomeKing
2.7/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

I love Dogfish Head Brewery for the quality of its beers and for its daring and creativity. It is probably my favorite brewery. Whether you're brewing beer, playing music, or writing stories, when you take changes and do things differently, you will sometimes produce a bad result. This is what happened to Dogfish Head with Raison D'etre. The tastes are oddly cobbled together--raisins and hops and who knows what else, mingling awkwardly like incompatible members of a reality show. For all the oddness of the beer, it's actually bland in many ways, particularly during the first few sips. The more I drank, the more the odd and unpleasant tart and sweet fruit tastes came forward. I would have preferred the relative blandness of the first few sips.

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Photo of BravoTwo
2.71/5  rDev -26%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Bought a mixed 6 of Dogfish Head, and selected this item. Poured into a goblet, and was very impresed with the initial apearance.

A - Nice dark brown coloration, with no appreciable head.

S- Smelled slightly of grapes, dark wine. Alcoholic smell, which was not unpleasant.

T - Not impressed here. Way too face forward with the alcohol in this beer, and not really well balanced with any other flavor, taste, or anything else to grab your attention. Could have done with a more balanced taste

M - Too thin, with no real substance here, which suprised me given the punch of the alcohol.

D - split this beer anyway, which was a good thing since I am sure I could have not have finished the whole thing.

I was not impressed with this beer, and would not repurchase it. That being said, this beer may personally satisfy you, if you enjoy a more in-your-face alcoholic tasting Belgian .Try Unibroue's Trois Pistoles, if you are looking for an exceptionally balanced Begian Strong.

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Photo of rawfish
2.71/5  rDev -26%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a very nice shade of mahogany, brown with touches of ruby and garnet. Papery off white colored head reaches up to 2 inches high but with poor retention leaving a few streaks of lacing on the glass.

Very muted smell even as the beer warms. Some chocolate and a small roasted feel coupled with molasses and brown sugar. varied and sweet. Dark fruit, similar to figs more so than raisins.

Starts with a dark chocolate note, slightly bitter and quickly runs through a constantly devolving mash of flavors, brown sugar, dates and raisins becoming increasingly medicinal and burnt. Odd medicinal bitterness on the aftertaste coupled with some woodiness and charred meat, weird. This slowly moves away from campfire flavor puts on a more yeasty and sweet aftertaste as the beer warms. Alcohol is also quite present.

Didn't really like the taste but the body was nice and light and the carbonation adequate. Some herbal drying but prickly alcohol surfaces through the drink.

Not all that terrible, redemption comes as the beer warms but still the taste was lingering and unpleasant. Yeast and earthy, metallic hops control the flavors of the beer too much negating the sweet malts and sugars. Very hollow fruity notes that don't even explain the weird smokiness on the end.

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Photo of angrybabboon
2.73/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Review adapted from notes taken 2/27/11

Appearance: Somewhere between a dark amber and a light brown, starts with a nice light tan head, but it fades very quickly - lacing is okay

Smell: Somewhat Belgian with some yeast, candi sugar, dark fruits - very fruity, with figs and raisins - smells sweet, some serious alcohol in the nose

Taste: Simply put - too sweet, too much alcohol - there are some hints that this should be a Belgian Dark, but this subtle character is crushed by the sugary malts and excessive dark fruits - extremely unbalanced, sugary and alcoholic - could calm down with some aging - the taste isn't awful, but it is a bad representation of the style

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, drinkable despite some issues with the taste

Overall: Not awful, but not something I want to drink again

My girlfriend's mother likes to buy me beer. She bought a six pack of this, and I am still trying to think of a polite way to tell her to never buy it again for anyone. It's a sugary mess of a beer.

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Photo of quasimoto
2.73/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I can say right now this beer would go great with a steak. It's strong on the palette and definitley needs something with bold flavor to counter-act it.
It pour a dark reddish brown with no head but high carbination. Almost like pepsi. There is absolutely no head, just alittle foam. The aromas of a red bourdeaux come to mind. It also reminescent of a saison. there are some spices in there that I can't pick out. I read about this beer, and brew my own; so I boiled raisins one time and know exactly what they taste and smell like. I can definitely taste them in here. The mouthfeel is definitely one that I can't say I enjoy too much. Its too sharp on the palette, and not easy to take. This is definitely out of the box thinking for brewing. Sam is definitely creative. But for myself I think this might be an aquired taste. This was also sitting on the back of a warm shelf for a while in the store. It was dust covered and bent up. I'm hoping the next time I taste it, there will be a difference.

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Photo of gkatsoris
2.73/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

A: Brown in color, w/ no murkyness/cloudyness. And a light brown head that fizzled down within thirty seconds.

S: Raisins. little hops. cherries. alcohol.

T: Pretty earthy. Raisins. Sweet. Burnt brown sugar.

M: Way to bubbly and carbonated. Feels like a seltzer water or a diet soda. Blech!

D: I'm a huge DFH guy, but not on this one; sorry.

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Photo of trevorjn06
2.73/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pours a deep copper/mahogany color with one finger of tan head that recedes to a layer of tight bubbles on the surface.

Aroma is brown sugar, caramels, plums, oranges and some alcohol. A hint of sharpness comes through.

Flavor is a bit sharp and thin it begins with some brown sugar flavors and a bit of fruitiness, moving into a bit of solventy... mess. The finish is rough with alcohol, oranges and hints of brown sugar.

Mouthfeel is medium/light bodied with average carbonation. Has a solventy feel.

Overall I really do not care for this beer. It tastes like a terrible attempt at a Dubbel that turned into a hot, fusel mess.

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Photo of jsisko01
2.74/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Appearance - Pours a VERY dark amber/brown color with an inch thick, creamy tan head.

Smell - Toffee, caramel, malts, and a strong alcohol aroma. Almost smells like one of those whiskey ales.

Taste - Has a burnt, toasty flavor to it and somewhat nutty. Sweet, malty, flavors of raisins, and has a strong alcohol aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - Thick, creamy like body with high carbonation. The carbonation seems different than other beers though.. like not as harsh

Overall - I guess this just really isn't my style of beer.. but I'm not gonna knock it for what it is.

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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 jimilayne
2.75/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I'm a huge fan of Dogfish Head and this is the first 'swing and a miss' I've had from them. There's just too much going on here. I'm not sure exactly what the goal was with the taste but it confused the H out of me. It's just not up to par with the rest of their fine products that I've had (60, 90, 120 min IPAs, Bitches Brew, Hellhound Ale, Pearl Jam Twenty Ale).

Drank a few out of the bottle and really don't have much to say. Too spicy and while the raisins come through, they're not balanced well enough with anything else to bring out the best of them.

Had to try it on principle but won't be going back.

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

12oz bottle bottled on 15 dec 2009

Poured into my Hofbrau willibecher

A- Chestnut brown body with excellent clarity, 2 finger head that reduces quickly producing average to poor lacing.

S- A metallic note, faint belgian yeast, maybe a hint of vinegar. No real feel of malt richness as expected for the style

T- Very faint belgian yeast sweetness, a little roasted note, maybe a little caramel and wholemeal bread. Slightly syrupy finish. This is more like a higher abv brown ale! Some alcohol heat is an unwelcome afterthought

M- Medium body, low carbonation, cask ale-like!

D- Its easily drinkable but this is not a very good example of the style, it makes a better brown ale. Flavour profile is faint and underwhelming with a lifeless body. No thanks!

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Photo of nbbd
2.76/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

a: Mahagony just like the bottle said

s: Woody, Mushroomy, Smells like a produce section of a grocery store... No single Note leaves a lasting impression but has a... mix of fresh and turning fruits and vegetables - not bad but not distinguishable

t: Rum and sugar- cane/brown. Medicinal aftertaste?

m. thick coating- (I can feel the alcohol my thought as I exhale)

d. No idea yet. Will have to revisit this beer- Probably with a meal or snack. Not a beer Id sit and order at a bar. But not Bad...

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Photo of PatYoda
2.77/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Definitely not impressed. Pours an ugly clear copper color with absolutely no head after 30 seconds. Taste was metallic and alcoholic with some dark fruit and syrupy sweetness. A nice spiciness at the end is tasty though. Hardly any carbonation. Maybe this was a bad bottle. I have some more and will rereview if different.

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Photo of CasanovaCummins
2.77/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This is a bizarre creature. I'm thinking in my mind that this is a watered down lambic or a whiskey sour.

It has a smooth, watery entry that lightly hints at alcohol and wheated raisins. It seems almost too smooth, though, and lacks any heaviness in the body.

I'm not sure whether I like it or loath it. It is just so bloody different from anything I've tasted before. Props on going out on a limb, but maybe too far out.

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Photo of Act25
2.77/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

I came back to try this after a year of reading and writing reviews on BA. I dont like it any better now that I have a smarter palette. It's nothing like a true belgian strong ale.

A: Poured bottle into pint glass. Head rose up tan over a brown ale body, didnt last, didnt lace. Not loving the color or the vitality of the pour.

S: Some wrote gum and candy, with solvent. I just dont get any real organic, fruit or grain off this beer. It's a bit industrial. More toward a badly made scotch ale (not my fave style) and nothing like a delicious strong belgian ala Chimay.

T: Follows the smell down the hole. bubble gum, candy rack, spray and wash. (ie a solvent). Industrial more than organic/ natural. Dont even think about it with food. A bit of dark fruit and raisin, prune, spice. No real sense of malt and hops, and syrupy, cloying.

M: sticky, doesnt leave mouth in a great place.

Y! answers wrote: "Golden raisins and green raisins are often bleached with sulfur dioxide Both sulfuric and tartaric acid may induce electrical currents.... A sort of "metal-and-acid battery" effect."

Acid battery - took the words out of my mouth.

This beer should be retired. I havent liked DFH across the board so far. Has a refined, industrial trend with not really inviting aromas that this beer is most guilty of.

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Photo of AgentZero
2.78/5  rDev -24%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

A - Almost mohogany colored beer. Brown with some red hues and just a touch of orange. Yellows on the edges. Off-white head faded to a tight ring and partial cap.

S - Dark frui, bit of booze, some yeast, phenols, ethers. Smells a touch harsh, and sweet.

T - Taste is more harsh than the nose. A little boozy. Some harsh phenols and yeast. It's kind of sour and rough tasting. Really just kind of hard to drink. A bit boozy. You do get some raisins and a little burnt sugar. Wow, I really don't like this.

M - Kind of a lingering bitter finish. Fairly full bodied with moderate carbonation.

O - Yeah, didn't care much for this. Not really a winner here. Hard to drink. It's a bit rich, maybe some will ike this, but this one isn't for me.

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Photo of BigMike
2.78/5  rDev -24%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Bottled on date of 12/31/08

I just recently tried my first offering from DFH (90 minute ale)
so i figured i'd sample another.
Unfortunately this one doesn't hold a candle to 90minute.

Pours a golden red color with a one finger head.
I can almost smell a grape popsicle.
Theres little to no carbonation in this one.
I'm having trouble pinpointing the flavors here. I can taste a grape flavor like it smells but after that nothing really stands out.
Not much sweetness and not much bitterness.
This is a pretty uneventful one in my book.
On a positive note, the 8% abv is well hidden and the beer is actually pretty easy to drink.

Overall, not one i would recommend or even try again myself.
I was slightly disappointed. I should have gone with the 60 minute from DFH.

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Photo of muddyriverduck
2.78/5  rDev -24%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Hmmm. I expected more.

First off, it looks more like a pinot noir than it does a beer. No head whatsoever and very little carbonation.

It smelled like sweet rum. Where's the raisons?

Very dry, in taste and mouth feel. Thin and watery.

I'll make it through one, but will not be having another tonight. At $10 a sixer, I will not be purchasing again. Maybe Frazbri and BrotherFraz2 can come over and help me with the other five.

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

a- This poured a deep orange amber color with an off-white head. The body is fairly clear with light to moderate carbonation

s- The smell was harsh and fruity. Quite sweet but not overly pleasant.

t- Raisins, like the bottle says but this isn't a good thing. It just doesn't work. It is grossly sweet and has a musty flavor to it.

mf/d- The feel is moderate and slick. Despite the weirdness it isn't too offensive. I suppose I could have a few but this beer lacks a sense of purpose.

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Photo of StaveHooks
2.79/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A - Pours a dark red amber. An off-white head sinks quickly

S - Woody roasted malt, toasted toffee, earthy bark.

T - Super sweet candy malt, dark fruit preserves, spice towards the middle. I keep getting NyQuil. The alcohol is there and doesn't play well with the rest of the components.

M - Low carbonation, thin watered down syrupy feel.

I wanted to like this more than I did. It is an interesting beer but I couldn't help thinking of NyQuil the whole time. The syrupy malt drowned out everything except the alcohol.

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Photo of obywan59
2.8/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a deep mahogany like the bottle says. 1 1/2 finger head that quickly dissipates.

Smells of sweet raisins. Distinctive Belgian aroma as well. A bit of coffee.

Burnt, sweet, and burn (from the alcohol). Not much subtlety here. A little tartness. Did I mention burnt?

Moderate mouthfeel. It helps keep that burnt flavor on the tongue.

A bit tough to drink until the 8.0 ABV kicks in. I'd have been upset if this had been a only a 4.0.

In the end, it's the ABV that saves this beer. By the end of the first glass, your'e only just a bit wistful that there isn't more flavor.

This knocks off Delirium Noel as the least favorite of the BSDAs that I've sampled this season, but I still enjoyed it in the end. It's way better than Guiness Draught in a can.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.66 out of 5 based on 4,285 ratings.
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