Raison D'Être | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

4,289 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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Reviews: 1,772 | Ratings: 4,289
Photo of Rumrunner
2.95/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12oz. bottle

Pours a deep copper color. weak head and little lacing. smells of deap malts, weak raisins, and caramel.

A very heavy molassas flavor. The ale has caramel, raisins, and figs. A huge malt flavor dominates this ale. A different ale.

It drinks okay. Nothing special. Easy to drink down.

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Photo of taez555
4.48/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer poured a deep clear mahogany body with a small tan head.

The nose had some defiantly dark sugary smells. Belgian yeast, phenols, some light spice, and hints of fruit. By the name you could guess it'd be raisins, but I found the smell to be a little more subdued not really giving a defined fruit smell.

The taste was very nice. Fully bodied and very malty. Light carbonation. Soft caramel. Soft fruit flavors, green raisin, even hints of grass. There was a firm bitterness and earth hop flavor, but they sat evenly with the malt. It had an almost creamy texture but at the same time was very smooth. It ended slightly bitter and malty, but died off rather quickly.

This is a very interesting beer because it's not exactly trying to be any one style. It's very malty, raisiny, and has the belgian yeast flavor, but isn't trying to be a belgian. It's just a smooth, wonderfully flavorful, malty, fruity, balanced beer that's addicting to drink. A must try.

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Photo of Shiloh
3.52/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Very nice product, glad that we met...could drink a lot more of this brew if the ABV was lower.
Even with 8% ABV, there is no alcohol taste, so be careful!!!!!!
Appears like dark tea, smell is lightly of burnt almonds.
Body is medium as is the carbonation.
Taste starts medium sweet and stays there with a minor hoppy expierience in the background that seemingly tries to salute but falls a tad short.
Mouthfeel is a bit heavy. Any brew with an ABV this high deserves respect and caution.

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Photo of GreenCard
3.68/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Appearance: a beautiful dark copper color, crystalline clarity, but no head to speak of

Aroma: a bready malt sweetness backed by raisins and a plummy fruitiness, a twinge of Styrian-like hops

Flavor: well-balanced palate all through, nothing really takes charge, a nice rich maltiness kept at bay by an American-style hop level (i.e.- more flavoring and bittering hops), flavors of burnt caramel and raisins, also a hard-to-define background bitterness that lingers in the aftertaste, semi-sweet finish, raisiny residual flavor

Mouthfeel: medium body, fine carbonation, some slickness on the teeth and tongue, lots of alcohol warmth

Overall Impression: Overall it's a really nice beer. It's flavors are full and subdued at the same time, if that's possible. I'd like to see more head on it. I don't know if DFH does this, but a bottle-conditioned corked 750ml version would be out of this world!

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Photo of Morris729
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a fairly clear chestnut color with a creamy light tan head that quickly fades into a thin and patchy lace. Nose is candied sugar, sweet grain, light chocolaty malts, rum-soaked raisins, and a bit of spicy alcohol. Moderate in body and slightly syrupy in texture. Taste begins quite sweet with flavors of brown sugar and lots of roasted malt. However, even with the strong malt presence, it’s not quite enough to counterbalance the intense winey alcohol that follows with notes of raisins and tawny port with a bite of peppery spice in the finish. Of course, a beer need not necessarily be balanced to be enjoyable. An intense and very complex beer. Thanks to faernt for the sample!

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Photo of far333
3.79/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark copper color with a beige foamy head that runs away quickly. Aroma is plentiful - sweet and rich, with malt, fruit and alcohol. Flavor likewise is rich and sweet. Tastes malty with hints of apricot and honey, and a bit of yeast. Mouthfeel is lacking. It's slick and watery with low carbonation. Drinkability is on the low side due to the overly sweet flavor and unappealing mouthfeel.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.18/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Color is deep, deep reddish brown of mahoganey, slow carbonation bubbles flowing within its dark center. Finger high head of ivory colored tight froth that faded fast and leaves lots of tiny stringed lace. Aroma is a malty light caramel and dark fruit ensemble of softness - raisin, plum, and apricot with a fairly solid amount of alcohol in the nose as well. Taste is smoothly subtle and calm with an easy caramel malt start that flows into the dark fruits of mostly plum and raisin, slight molasses and banana, notes of cinnamon and sugared beets. Finish is a nice candy sweetness of caramel and yes, more raisins, quite nice in its subtlities throughout each sip. Smooth, light creamy body feel with a small warming alcohol kick in the finish. I really liked the subltities in the flavors of this beer but lacks in richness and some bolder character in the feel and smell. Its quite good none the less; and enjoyable in my book.

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Photo of charlesw
3.52/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice mahogany (golly, does it say that on the bottle?). Small and thin cream colored head that lasts about as long as you think about it. Poof!
A nice but faint woody/earthy smell to it.
Ah, but the flavor! A nice HEAVY malt/diacetyl (ok, it might just have been the bottle I tried!). What impresses me the most about it is the evenness of the flavor - for me it really starts and finishes the same and then the aftertaste is just a slow releasing of the same flavor. Now, technically that must mean that there aren't a whole lot of sugars left, eh? But, wow, is that flavor ever strong! Woo!
Nice and creamy, loved it, I'll try another some day, I suppose!

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

To be, or not to be.. that is the question. Review # 100, and while beer is not my only reason to be, it is one of them.

This offering is a lively red-copper color, of the type that seems to give off more light than it draws in. Aroma is a slightly sugary harbinger of high-octane brewing, without revealing the entire flavor profile.

Taste is first and foremost highly fermented sugars, with an almost syrupy note of raisins. Belgian-style yeast makes itself known with moderate ester flavor. There is little traditional malt nor hop flavor to this, only raisins, sugars (from beets, according to the label), yeasty, fruity esters, and alcohol. More of a high-potency liquid candy than a normal beer, this demands respect and slow sipping.

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Photo of TXHops
2.88/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

-ABV: 8%
-IBU’s: 36

Mmmm—beet sugar…. Nothing beats beet sugar as a non-malt fermentable, except maybe green raisins… DFH’s Raison D’etre refuses to compromise, and includes both… The beer pours a solid, clear, deep amber and supports a better head than the 8% ABV would suggest, though it’s not great. An aroma of alcohol and cider do not make a promising first impression. The flavor is more beery than the aroma suggests—brown sugar and cinnamon mingle with fluffy carbonation and no hop character to create a Belgian flavored, spiced English strong ale-type concoction. I tried this beer on tap once while in Delaware and thought it was too cidery and thin to merit any further tasting. The bottled version appears to taste less cidery (though still more cidery than most beers) and slightly more complex. Some of the other flavors seem to add a degree of Belgian spiciness and depth in the flavor that even the slightly vegetal finish doesn’t detract too much from.

All in all, I’d chalk this one up as Dogfish having pushed the envelope a little too far beyond the “beer boundaries” and into the experimental, novelty category. The concept is way more intriguing than the flavor. The beer finishes long, fluffy, slightly sour and fake. It tastes exactly like I’d expect a beer with a large percentage of non-malt fermentables would taste—cidery (again). Oh well, there’s still the continuously hopped beers….

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Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.48/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Merriam-Webster defines mahogany as simply a reddish-brown. It's a good call on the color, I got no problem with it. No head when poured in typical fashion into a pint glass. Slightly cloudy and even a strand of suspended yeast when the last few drops were poured in a few moments ago.

Aroma has lots of malt and raisins with a side of yeast. Sweet smelling enough that if it were daytime and I were outside, those damn fruit flies would be taking headers into my glass and I'd end up drinking their dumb ass.

Taste is a mix of malt, raisins, and a certain 'greenness' and woodiness. Alcohol is hidden quite well when cold and only moderately more prevalent at room temps. Snappy, yeasty, perhaps even cinnamony finish. I remember that flavor from opening night at Hofbrauhaus Newport with the Weizen, I think the yeast was very rich that night and hasn't been as strong since :-(
Hats off to the brewer for his generous proportions of ingredients. Progressing into the beer, the raisiny component develops some clove character as well.

Mouthfeel is heavier than average, but not overdone. Leaves a firm malty sweet residue in the mouth, maltheads will enjoy this beer.

I think drinkability has two factors, 1) does the alcohol level/presence invite me to enjoy a 2nd, 3rd, 4th?, and 2) is the taste good enough to warrant another round, and another? Raison D'Etre does a great job on both points, I would drink these all night, probably max out at 5, then just switch to water, call a cab, whatever...

Overall, it's not it my top *top* list, but among the leaders in my 'Above Average' category.

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Photo of hotstuff
3.8/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This particular brew poured a small white head with small bubbles. The body was mahogany in color and there was no lacing on the sides of my glass. I sensed an aroma of raisins with this brew and the flavor had a hint of smoke. All in all, not a bad drink.

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Photo of Stopper
3.25/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a relatively clear dark copper color, with a modest head that slowly fades. Aroma is of a chewy sweet maltiness. The taste is initally a bit of a bready malt flavor, with a lighter mouthfeel than expected from the aroma (due to the beet sugars I guess), followed quickly by a strange bitterness that feels a bit more astringent than a well-done hop bitterness. This bitterness slowly fades to the tip of the tongue leaving a slight burnt flavor, and then disappears several seconds into the aftertaste.

Not my favorite Dogfish Head, but I certainly wouldn't kick her out of bed.

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

Poured a deep copper color with slight head that was gone quickly,the aroma was complex almost meaty with slight sugary notes.Taste was somewhat fruity,like others i do pick up some grape-like flavors,with some sweet alcohol flavors rounding this one out.A very complex beer kinda hard to rate,I would try again,would love to find on tap.

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Photo of TheDM
3.9/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

This brew poured a small head of fine to mediumly sized off white bubbles and a transparent brown body. With a very mild malt aroma, the flavors and plalate of this brew are definately its stongest points. The flavor is very complex with notes of spice, roasted caramel, malt, sugar sweetness and a noticeable alcohol content. It has a good mouthfeel with a lingering tongue numing sensation.

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Photo of SheepNutz
3.85/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I had this one in a 12oz. bottle poured into a pint glass. It pours a deep copper color with 1 finger of head that dies quickly. There is no lacing left on the glass. The smell is a mix of grapes and hops. Without the hops, it would smell just like wine. The taste is a bit of fruit and spice. There is just a little bit of hops. This is a fairly sweet brew. The mouthfeel is very thick. The drinkability is also fair for being 8%.

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Photo of bmills1608
4.02/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the 12 oz bottle a deep amber brown color with excellent clarity. Head was quite weak, very small and faded to a wispy film in less then a minute.

On the nose was various baking spices (unspecified to me), caramel, cinnamon, cherries and some Belgian yeast.

Taste was clean and a bit tart at first, smooth grains, hard candy and alcohol, some more of the same spice that was on the nose and figs. Overall impression of the flavor was smooth and mildly rich. Finished with some alcohol, drying out with some more hard candy sweetness. Mouthfeel was on the lighter side for what I would consider a fairly "big" beer.

A very enjoyable ale that is interesting enough to keep you on your toes but is not overly complex or earth shattering.

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Photo of beergeek279
4.47/5  rDev +22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served as a sample at the Penn Festival. The color was dark amber with a bit of head. The smell was sweet, with a hint of malt. The taste was very sweet, with hints of the raisons. The mouthfeel was fairly smooth, and the alcohol wasn't apparent at all. This is definitely a beer I'd have several of.

This is Dogfish Head's attempt to do a Dubbel. I enjoyed this one and think that it's one of the better Belgian-styles produced in America, and hope to see DFH do more!

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

This brew pours darker than I was exspecting almost pitch black. Has a small head that subsided rather quickly. This beer is supposed to be reminicent of a Beligium I have heard but I do not think that is the case. Still, I did not think this beer was as "off" as other reviewers have commented. A rather unique flavor to this one, definately some raison notes as well as some dark malt flavor to this beer. Alcohol is there and this is not a beer that I would session because, unlike many beers even of this abv, it felt heavy to me. A good beer...not a great beer.

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Photo of mjohn27603
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brought back from Chicago by trbeer. 12 fl. oz. bottle. Pours copper in color with very little head. Aroma smells of pistachios. Taste also reminds me of pistachios and small hops contribution. I just have pistachios on the brain for this review. I won't have a chance to re-review since this isn't sold in Michigan. I do get some some of nutty flavor though. Slight vegetable taste - from beet sugars?

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Photo of Elemental
4.05/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Very raisony and fruity yet spicy with a mild bitterness. This beer pours great with a light head. The aroma is almost overwhelming with a slight bit of hops but mainly a sweet and fruit smell. The raisons and beet sugar really come out in the flavor that is sweet, earthy, spicy and mildly bitter. the first drink is spicy at the begining but this soon dies and you are left with almost a carbonated fruit juice type drink (but in a good way). Overall a really good sipping beer.

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Photo of kmo1030
3.58/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

this is a pretty beer in my opinion. it's got nice brown color with pale quarter inch head. It's smells like no beer i've ever encountered. there is a heavy raisin smell, almost like grape juice. i think there are some other fruity smells in there, but i can't identify them. It's taste is what i would expect from the smell of it. it tastes like a beer/wine hybrid almost. the raisins are again apparent along with some sweet malt flavor. the 8% alcohol is masked well as it does not taste that strong. it has a slight coffee/chocolatey finish. it's mouth feel is nice and pretty thick. overall a decent beer, but nothing i'm going to run out and get again right away.

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Photo of BeerBuilder
4.35/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This one poured to a deep copper/rubyish color with a creamy tan head. It left behind a great deal of lace when I sipped it down. I found the smell to be wonderful. It was very raisiny, with hints of chocolate and caramel malts. The flavor was sweet, caramely, and raisiny. It is a smooth beer, medium-full in body with a slight alcoholic warmth. Another great offering from Dogfish Head.

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Photo of MissOrch
3.16/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This beer has an orangy amber color, with tons of carbonation. It looks like a dark soda, with some tornadoes of bubbles touching down every now and then.

The smell isn't very strong. I wonder if maybe I got a bad bottle because I remember this smelling much better before. Actually, last time I had it was from a cask, so maybe that had something to do with it. When I stick my nose way in there, I smell a little burned caramel, and I like to pretend I smell raisins too... and now my nose is all wet.

The taste is slightly sweet, and has a bitter finish. It leaves my mouth all fizzy and tingly. I can taste the hops, but not as much of the malty sticky sweetness I remember from the cask. Maybe when I went to the bathroom the beer troll came and took a piss in my bottle. Don't get me wrong, it still tastes good, just not nearly as good as I remember. I'll have to try it on tap again next time I see it.

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Photo of jcalabre
4.6/5  rDev +25.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Originally sampled 28 September 2002. Loved it. Beautiful mahogany color w/ a unique taste that I can't quite place. I'm sure glad that I can now get this locally!! In a follow on tasting, I served it in a stemmed, tulip shaped glass rather than a pint glass. Wow, it improved the nose tremendously (OK, I don't have a great sense of smell). Got definite whiffs of baking chocolate w/ a hint of cinnamon. The upfront taste was slightly sweet w/ a smooth finish.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.66 out of 5 based on 4,289 ratings.
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