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 cooncat
4.09/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After experiencing Dogfish Head's great IPAs, I decided to try one of their other styles. While this is listed as a Belgian Strong Ale, I found that it seemed closer to a barley wine. My review will explain why.

My sample was room temperature when poured into one of my 20 oz. clear glasses. What little head developed during the pour quickly disappeared .. completely; no lace at all. There was no carbonation that I could detect. Color was a burnt umber, very dark; almost opaque.

Additional info: I tried a 2nd bottle, at room temperature, and with a vigorous pour was able to raise about a half inch head. This quickly dissipated ... in less than 30 seconds, I would say. Taste was identical to the first sample, and I'm still left with the impression of a mild "barley wine".

The aroma is BIG, with the high alcohol eskers hitting your nose, along with a wine-like sweetness.

Taste is very much like a barley wine, such as Old Horizontal or Old Crustacean. In the beginning, the taste is somewhat malty, with a hint of raisins and sweetness accompanying the warming alcohol. The end finishes a bit dry, but not overpoweringly so. I was expecting some spicy notes, but didn't find any in my sample. However, I was not disappointed at this.

A big beer like this needs to be sipped and enjoyed slowly. Not a session beer, but one that would be excellent on a chill Fall or Winter evening.

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Photo of Golden2wenty1
4.25/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a single at Riley's here in Madison. Only my second Dogfish Head after their Liquor de Malt.

Pours a shimmering rusty amber with one finger white head that leaves quickly with some lacy remnants. Aroma is nice, raisins, brown sugar, and sweet malts. Flavor is more of the same, sweet fruits and dark brown mapley sugar over a malt backbone. Not much of a hop presence. Mouthfeel is light and crisp, the alcohol is present but not overbearing for 8%. A nice little beer here that I enjoyed quite a bit. Sweet but not cloying, I could see this as a nice winter warmer as well.

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Photo of kingjames1
4.22/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

pours a nice rich amber, with a very decent head and resolves to a respectable lacing

smells of raisins (raisons), spice, and a faint touch of alcohol - very appealing

taste is more of the same, though other flavors come through. this one is surprisingly complex. I taste some caramel, dark fruits, sweet raisins, of course, which brings a port-like quality to the over all taste, though is much lighter. I also taste some burnt malts in there, and a slight bitterness toward the end. This is really good, imo.

carbonation is good, perhaps slightly weak, making it slighty syrupy, though not unpleasant

this is very drinkable, very enjoyable belgium ale. This is really nice, and i find it surprising that the score for this is not higher.

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Photo of nortmand
4.87/5  rDev +33.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark rudy cherry red, with a nice, bit of beech foam and minimal lacing.
Smell is chocolate, currants and sweet cinnamon-clove.
Rich chocolate flavor, with a supporting fruity, raisiny soft flavor. Intensely complex and hard to describe, but somehow right on.
Rich, bubbly carbonation coats the tongue and reminds you that you are indeed drinking beer and not some divine creation.
This beer is absolutely great by any definition. A nearly perfect beer in every respect.

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Photo of Chadbrew
3.85/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Appearance - Rich and caramel colored with a decent head and fair carbonation. There is some really nice lacing here.
Aroma - Sweetness and raisins and dried fruit and malt. There is a nice Belgian yeast-like smell also.
Taste - Very complex stuff going on in here. There seems to be some almost vinous qualities as well as a pleasant aged fruitiness. This is one of those beers that changes as it warms so it just keeps giving.
Body - Plenty of it!
Drinkability - A little heavy for drinking too many. This is a great after dinner or night cap.

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

Sampled at the brewery.

This beer pours with a nice copper red body, light haze, and light head. A little darker than I've seen it before, have they tinkered with it? The aroma is primarily that of apricots and alcohol, but there is enough malt and a hint of hops to keep this well-balanced. Taste is very dry, a lot less sweet than you'd expect, but otherwise lightly fruity, some malt, and a bitter finish. Pleasantly drinkable, unlike other apricot beers (like #9), I could perhaps even make this a session beer.

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

Pours clean and bright gleaming ruby copper, with only a hint of haze. Tiny head that fizzles quickly. Moderate carbonation. Smells of bready yeast and ripe dark fruits. High alcohols are apparent in smell and taste, with near-solvent characteristics. Bone dry, with a smooth and slightly creamy mouthfeel and decent malt backbone considering the dryness. Peppery and slightly numbing after the swallow.

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

poured a deep reddish color with only sparse head. Smell was extremely enjoyable with a mixture of dark fruits (plums, raisins) and loads of malt. Taste follows through, being strongly fruity and malty. Finish is very smooth with lack of alcohol noted. A very nice beer to have, but one is enough.

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Photo of packetknife
3.65/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a brown-red with solid crimson/blood highlights in decent light. Dense thin head, light-brown, laced well. Smelled like an old yellow raisen and vodka 'home remedy' my granny used to make. The taste is a bit unusual to me, good but weird. I get twinges of pomegranite and cherry, a lot of sharp sweetness that instantly dissapears into a better balance. It's an odd beer and I'm rating it higher than I usually would but after an odd week it seemed fitting. Very drinkable for the ABV.

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Photo of wedge
3.98/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep mahogany red with violet hues - a small head forms initially but vanishes quickly into a light lacing - light carbonation. Smells distinctly of toasted malts and faint dark fruits w/ a spicy hint of alcohol. The taste is very nice - malty with fruit undertones. Goes down with a lightly fruity/sweet sting and is followed by a sugary sweet (but not too sweet) aftertaste. There is not a hint of the 8% ABV in the taste - easy to drink and has more of a carbonated mouthfeel than appears.

I really enjoy this ale, but for such a complex brew I'd need to move on to something else after a couple. Still, very interesting and enjoyable - I will be getting this again.

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

Mmmm. This beer goes amazingly well with red grapes, which doesn't suprise. Probably would be equally good with black and green grapes. Its looks good, deep bown with redish and even faint purple tones. Off white head is not very big nor long lasting, but the lacing is nice. The beer smells similar to its taste. Chocolatey malts, with sweet wine/grape scents and tastes. The smell and taste are both pretty complex; I like them a lot. Mouthfeel is smooth. I was real suprised to find this had 8% abv. The awesome combo of deep chocolatey malts and grape fruitiness covers the alcohol great. I think the carbonation is just right, but for a split second when you sip it seems stong, then smooths out fast with flavors. The beer is very tasty, and real drinkable in that way, but after a few I think I'd like to switch it up.

This one's real complexly flavorful in a quality Belgian way. I'll be getting more.

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Photo of ommegangpbr
3.72/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The 2000 edition, 12 ounce bottle into a Chimay goblet.
A pretty looking beer, but not too noteworthy for the style. It's a mahogany color with a slightly offwhite head; not much head or lacing to speak of.
Smells... sharp; an odor that reminds me of perfume. There are fermented fruit odors to be found that might remind some people of garbage but for the most part I like it.
I taste all kinds of raisins in this. I haven't had green raisins in a long time (which the bottle says this is brewed with) but I certainly taste golden and dark raisins. This is not as deep or complex as others I've had of the style but the straightforwardness has an appeal.
The mouthfeel is a bit sticky sweet that lingers for a little longer than I'd like. The carbonation is appealing and there is a tang that I like.
Overall I like this brew and would say it's worth a try to those that like sweeter tasting brews. The 8% alcohol is absolutely deceptive in this.

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Photo of KarlHungus
3.14/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a reddish brown color with a big white head and lots of visible carbonation. The aroma is sweet, but faint. The taste is as subtle as the aroma. Kind of sweet, kind of raisony. The mouthfeel is medium thin. Overall, this beer isn't bad, but it isn't good either. I wasn't on BA when I took notes on this beer, so I assumed the style was a fruit beer. I was suprised and disappointed when I found it to be a Belgain Strong Dark Ale. For it is a bad interpretation of that style, IMO. It's not flavorful enough, and the aroma is too faint.

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Photo of scooter231
4.11/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a lovely amber color with a slight amount of head. Smells sweet- reminds me a lot of how Hennepin tastes with some rasisins thrown in, oddly enough. Champagney.

Taste seems more subtle to me than the smell, but it's quite nice. Lots of raisins, and other sweet flavors. Other dark, juicy fruits. Cherry, plum, figs and beets as well. Alcohol hits you at the beginning of the sip and then quickly smooths out so it's not very abrasive. Kind of reminds me of chocolate covered raisins. Hints of caramel and cofee way in the back. Lots of dark flavors coming together in really nice harmony- and I'm not even a dark fruit fan.

Mouthfeel is slick. Flows right down the throat. I think this is pretty drinkable considering the alcohol content, and the sweetness. Now, I don't think it's THAT sweet, but a lot of others do. I could see myself not realizing just how much of it I'm imbibing. I really like this. Thanks dogish, for making something that doesn't taste like overwhelming alcohol to me. Now, I TRULY respect you.

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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 Gavage
3.29/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured a dark copper color with a surface foam for a head. No lacing develops. The aroma is of strong malt and alcohol. The flavor is dominated by the thick malt tones, as some prunes, green grapes, light bitterness, alcohol, and faint caramel tones round it out.

Medium-heavy in bidy. Mouthfeel was smooth and mildly syrupy at the start and finish. The aftertaste was long lasting on the malt. Drinkability is only average for this brew.

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

The owner of my usual package store let me know about this beer a few months ago, but I was too busy buying Belgian's to notice this one. He described it as a big dark Raisin flavored beer. He wasn't that far off.

Let me first say that I do like big trappist style quadrupel and strong dark ales so I once I tasted this I knew what to expect. I bought a six of this stuff for $6.99 which really wasn't too expensive at all( I once bought a 4-pack of Dogfish Aprihop for $8.99)

It poured into a ballon type glass without much of a head. The clor was blueish black with tight carbonation. The smell was sweet grape and Belgian sugars. I was impressed with the nose and the begininning of this beer and I thought to myself- they must use Belgian malts here, to get this smell. This was 8.00 abv, and to their credit- you could taste no alcohol, except perhaps a warming finish. The mouthfeel was good, at least as good as Unibroue's "Trois Pistoles" In fact, it is very similar to this beer.

Here's the rub, for me anyway, there was a way too strong Raisin aftertaste. It left a cloying, unpleasant type film on the palate, almost like a bad shiraz. I also like to swirl the glass and savor each sip, that wasn't the thing here either. This is a disappointment but then I thought, Dogfish must be going for this. If this is the case, and you love the raisin taste of shiraz,(try "Jake's Fault Shiraz" out of California) you will love this and think it is the best beer ever. For me, It started great but finished with the aftertaste.

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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 Buildscharacter
4.12/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I'm revisiting this review about a year or so after my first time, thinking that I may have gained more of an appreciation for Belgium beers.

Drinking this beer is quite the enjoyable experience, it's warm, caramel sweetness hints in the background from the beet sugars that are used in its brewing.

I am actually glad that there is little head on this beer as it allows you to really get a good taste and feel for it's thick smooth consistancy.

I don't know if my opinion has changed much for this beer. I still enjoy it, and it's still a great beer from Dogfish Head.

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Photo of sonofdon
3.63/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This was my first Dogfish Head brew. I haven't been able to find it at my local beer stores. I stubled upon this a Jackson's in the Village. From the outside this wouldn't have been my first Dogfish that I wanted to try. I'm glad I tried this one.

Appearance: Deep amber with hints of purple and brown

Smell: Fruit, mainly grape, and some malt

Taste: Like no other beer I have had. Deep fruitieness with sweet malt. You get a strong alcohol tast on the front of your tonge. Slight bitterness, but very little hop flavor. Clean finish. Very little head that does not stick around.

Mouthfeel: Clean with some abrasiveness from the alcohol.

Drinkablity: Not as easy as I would have liked. This is an aggressive beer that is challenging to most pallets.

Overall, I enjoyed this beer. I'm not sure that I would run out and buy this, but I would have it out with the proper meal.


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Photo of brentk56
3.78/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours a clear, relatively dark amber color with a head that disappears rather quickly; some strands of lacing are left behind

Smell: Caramel, figs and prunes with an edge of cinnamon

Taste: Relatively sweet caramel, up front, with the fig and prune flavors and hot cinnamon developing through mid-palate; after the swallow, just a little too alcoholic, but still shows off the dried dark fruit

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: For a Belgian dark, this lacks the caramel malt and dark fruit complexity that I associate with the style; an interesting experiment, but there are other Belgian darks that I prefer more

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

This brewery is incapable of brewing a bad batch. I passed on this beer for a while because I didn't think that I would fully appreciate it. I was wrong. An extremely complex and fruitful beer. Pours with a medium to high viscocity. Brown with some burgundy and purple violet tones. Tan / burgundy head falls to a trace, laces well, nice oily cling to the glass. Smells of cocoa, deep dark friuts, all hidden behind a malt base. Lightly hopped and tart. Tastes fruity sweet with pruned, dates, raisons, figs. All the goodness that you'd like from these fruits with only a mild tartness. A red wine-like muskiness in the body. Silky smooth rich body that nicely fades into the finish. Very consistant flow down the throat. Mild cherries show up in the finish. Mildly drying and mildly sweet. Dangerously easy to drink. I don't particularly like dark fruits, but I love the beers that exhibit their flavors--go figure.

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Photo of fdrich29
3.5/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle. "Packaged in" month not properly completed, does not indicate the month.

Amber and brown, little head and very thin lacing. Smells like raisins or figs, malt and alcohol. Tastes of alcohol, malts and figs.

The alcohol cuts down on the drinkability, just from a taste factor. In my opinion Sam's "reason for being" is his 90 Minute, that's a damn fine beer.

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

Pours a deep attractive purplish red but with the faintest head that disappears immediately. Very strong aroma of raisins, toffee, and dark fruits. Alcohol comes in suprisingly strong on the first sip, but blended with the dark raisin and fig flavors it's actually not too bad. Very sweet and somewhat syrupy in mouthfeel. This isn't bad at all, but I can't see myself ever drinking more than one in a sitting.

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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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