Raison D'Être | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

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Raison D'ÊtreRaison D'Être
4,307 Ratings
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

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,307 |  Reviews: 1,774
Photo of Shovelbum
3.02/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured with a 1cm head into a snifter. Head retention was minimal with little to no lace. The body of the beer was red-orange hued.

Smelled of grapes, rum and alcohol with sweet malty undertones.

The taste of this monster fights between grapes/raisins, malt and just straight booze—the hops weren’t even in contention. This is pushing the boundaries of the classification that it has been thrown into. But then again pushing boundaries ‘off-center’ is what Calagione and the other folks at Dogfish Head do best--- although to varying results as evidenced by this particular offering.

The carbonation was light and the body was medium.

This is unlike any Belgian-style ale I’ve encountered. I am generally a huge fan of Dogfish Head’s work, but I must admit that after my first one of these little babies I had to question my perception of this brewery. After familiarizing myself with the ‘raison’ of this beer I came to appreciate it a bit more. I think the key to enjoying it is drinking it on its own terms. It’s not Belgian. It is strong. It is definitely drinkable--- still, I won’t be purchasing another six pack in the near future.

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Photo of Bumpon10s
4.06/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a very reddish color with a small head that falls quickly but leaves a little floating.

S - Smells of deep fruits, but not very strong, I was expecting a potent nose given it's class.

T - Not bad, very strong in the fruits. Malts and a dominating kick of raisins with a touch of alcohol round out the mix.

M - Keeps it light on the mouth with ample carbonation, very pleasing.

D - Not exactly my favorite style, but I sure liked it. It goes down very smooth, and lightens the mood with an 8% ABV.

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Photo of beefytee
4.24/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a Potrsmouth Brewery snifter.
dark dark amber, beautiful looking beer, a puffy head that receded to reveal little to no lacing.

The first smell was of triamenic which I have to say, made me a little bit nervous. I let it breathe while I ate dinner, I didn't think it would blend well with Subway's Chicken Parm sub.

The first sip was wonderful. Not too much in the hops depertment, but just enough to JUST underbalance the beautiful sweetness of this beer. Any more and this sweetness may have been masked.

The aroma is nice, about what I would expect. The taste is really great. Sweet, reminded of belgium with this one. The alcohol is definitely warming and the finsh is great...like an overcooked, but not burned cookie. A bit of a medicine in the aftertaste, all characteristics I enjoy very much. The rasins are there, but they don't beat you over the head with them.

Great body, soft and almost pillowy in my mouth, the carbonation could not be better, light and tight, it pricks the tongue and soft palatte.

Drinkability? One is very drinkable, maybe two, but at 8% and being that it is, by comparison very sweet, 3 may be pushing it.

5 minutes later, a pleasant bitter feeling (not really aftertaste) still haunts the mouth. Great beer, looking forward to the Raison D'Extra

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Photo of EStreet20
3.29/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 ounce brown glass bottle. Poured into one of my new DFH Oversized wine glasses.

A - A nice dark brown color, definitely looked like mahogonay as the bottle stated. However there was little if any head. I thinkI may have given it a bad pour though.

S - An interesting smell. Hints of grape, almost like a wine but with not as much sourne.ss to the nose. An intriguing aroma to say the least.

T - Odd taste. Has a lot of bubblegum flavor in there with some fruity kick. Quite a bit of alcohol kick as well. A seemingly unbalanced taste. It's not bad, but nothing to rave about.

M - I would definitely like some more carbonation. A small saving grace is the alcohol warming on the toungue which I always like, still a little too flat for my tastes.

D - It does go down smooth, however it is an 8% beer so watch out. I think a little more carbonation, plus a better balance of flavors would make it more drinlable.

Notes: Can't say I'm too crazy about this one. SO far I've tried the 90 min IPA from DFH and loved it and also enjoyed the 60 min. This one just doesn't stack up in my opinion, however there are definitely worse six packs I could have in my fridge and I won't complain about drinking the others, just a little disappointing.

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Photo of Dewey0603
4.32/5  rDev +18%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A deep dark coppery color,but the head was a little small.
This is a full flavored ale with lots of sugar and spices.This isn't too strong of a taste,but a full fruity flavor.A very good ale that's worth drinking as a everyday beer.Dogfish Head gets high marks for always trying different beers.

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

Presentation: 12 oz longneck - nicely designed label. Bottled by month notched on the label.

Appearance: Pours a reddish brown with a thin head. Head faded to almost nothing. Lots of sediment, light bubbling.

Smell: Sweet candy sugar and over-ripe grapes. Also a molasses smell as well.

Taste: Taste starts out like a lot of tawny ports - with a sugary raisin flavor. The candy sugar adds a nice sweetness.

Overall impression: Very complex beer, but very drinkable as well. Definitely an interesting offering from a creative brewer.

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

Appearance: Pours out a crystal clear ruby color with a stark white head. The head retains reasonably well and fades to a ring around the glass.

Smell: Green raisins, alcohol, and a touch of fig newtons.

Taste: Dark ripe fruits dominate, I definitely taste the Belgian candi sugar, a little yeast, and a definite alcohol base. Also picking up some cinnamon and cloves too.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and leaves a warming, lingering finish.

Drinkability: One to savor. I could probably do more than one but I won't. Definitely works for me in the fall and will probably be even better once the temperature drops a bit more. Recommended.

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Photo of Shaw
3.62/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Just like the bottle's label says, this is a deep mahogany in color. The head is white but very, very small.

The smell is nice and complex, per the style. I smell lots of sweet notes like caramel and malt. Nice.

The taste isn't as sweet as the smell lead me to expect. At first there's lots of complex malty, beet sugar goodness. But the back end flavors don't hold up as well. The strong notes of alcohol make the aftertaste a little light for my tastes.

The body is a bit light, too, making the overall drinkability of this beer above average, but not great.

This is a decent Belgian Strong Dark Ale. There are just better examples out there.

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

Pours up a deep amber red color, thick head of creamy off-white foam that leaves a thin layer atop the beer.
Smells of sweet sugar raisin, some wheat or earth tone, somewhat like an oatmeal raisin cookie dipped in beer.
Taste is strong, with a nice malt start, and a hoppy malt finish. Very creamy with warm alcohol tinges in the back. Sweet overpowers the other flavors, but the alcohol is present, just barely. A smooth drinking beer, I would be afraid to have too many of these, but a unique mix from dogfish head. More and more I like their brews.


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Photo of RedHaze
3.38/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very nice looking copper color, but has very little head with almost no retention and very little lacing.

Smell is raisins, plums, candied and brown sugars, and a little alcohol. Overall though, the aromas were pretty subdued. I was a little disapointed.

Taste was pretty much the same as it smelled with maybe a little bread dough and malt.

A decent beer, but not one I will go out of my way to seek out again.

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

Burnished orange-bronze with a beautiful roseate blush. The pale caramel cap is remarkably tight-bubbled and soft with a blemish-free surface. I didn't see even a hint of deflation for the first several minutes. Unfortunately, it looks like the glass will be left untouched by lace.

Even with my nose in close proximity to the liquid, I'm having difficulty appreciating much. Vague impressions of dark malt, brown sugar and caramel are about it. The beer needs to seriously up the ante on the palate.

The flavor is as bold as the nose is shy. Raison D'Etre doesn't strike me as a BSDA; more like an old ale or even an English barleywine. There's a considerable amount of malt onboard. The flavor profile is made up of caramel-toffee, light molasses, cherries and raisins macerated in dark rum and, unfortunately, unmasked alcohol.

This bottle is at least one year old (bottled in October), but it could be as many as two years old. One would think that over that much time, the alcohol would have been tamed to some extent. It's still a little too raw for my tastes. There's also a metallic character that appears on the finish.

Warming and further inebriation don't bring anything new or interesting to the table. The flavor is still unintegrated, although not totally without merit. The mouthfeel is a bright spot. It's solidly medium and is as smooth as the day is long.

As noted on the label: I can taste the sweetness of the Belgian beet sugar, I can taste the green raisins (they taste like dark raisins to me) and I can taste the 'sense of purpose'. Dogfish Head does not lack vision or audacity, but they too often fail in the execution.

That's too harsh an assessment. Raison D'Etre isn't a failure by any means, but it doesn't hold together well enough to be anything more than a decent, quasi-drinkable curiosity. If the rumors of retirement for this beer are true, I certainly won't lose any sleep over it.

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

I was surprised when Calagione said in American Beer that this is their most popular beer. I guess because it's a crossover beer so it appeals to many non-beer drinkers. I do enjoy it, but it's no session beer for me. I can only handle one in a rare while. It's not quite beery enough for me.

Smell is very nice. Taste has raisins, as you'd expect. A bit sweet and fruity. In fact, i'm surprised to see BA does not classify this as a fruit/vegetable beer. Hops are barely noticeable, like the alcohol.

Pleasant and complex. Wish it had a slightly more prominent hop presence.

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

this one is pretty darn smooth considering the style. it smells very sweet and malty and it is. i tried to pick up a raison smell but i couldn't really find any. there is no head or lacing on this one which was a surprise, but ti does feel foamy and full once you take a drink. i'm glad i tried it.

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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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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Beer rating: 3.66 out of 5 with 4,307 ratings