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: 4,286
Photo of delta490
3.82/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Poured a 12oz bottle into a Samuel Adams Glass. Poured a medium-deep brown with a light tan colored head. Most of the head disappears pretty quickly, but a little lingers on and leaves a little lacing on the glass. Aroma is mostly sweet malt notes (caramel, fruit) and a little bit of spice. The taste is very similar, with just s hint of hop bitterness on the finish. A little heavy on the carbonation and little thin on the mouthfeel but neither is really a detriment.

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Photo of scot_chale
4.63/5  rDev +26.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

bottled on 2/13/13, drank on 3/26/13, poured from a bottle into a snifter

A- one finger of bubbly off-white head. deep dark blood red body with adctive carbonation and beautiful clarity.

S- dark fruit and blunt malt cover the nose completely. slight yeast bi-product hidden underneath. mildly pungent.

T- the malt comes through with a sweetness and dark fruitiness that's very pleasant. faint bitter hop character but it's a balancing act. it's dancing around being sour but not quite there. very pleasant.

M- very dry, carbonation plays a big role in that. medium-to-light bodied. not too bitter, not really sour, just balanced out.

O- First beer from Dogfish. I must say I'm very impressed. It's very complex, yet very drinkable. The alcohol is hidden very well. Everything from the look to the taste has me happy. The only thing keeping me from giving it a 5 is what I read about this style and the fact that I've never had one in this category before.

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Photo of arnoldosu1
3.77/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This is my first official review, not only here on beer advocate but in general as well! This is however not my first time enjoying this "deep mahogany ale" as dogfish states right on the bottle, nor is this my first Belgian dark ale, far from it in fact. So this is my cup of tea (or beer in this case). Now, on to the review!

Appearance: Poured from a 12 oz. bottle (45-50 degrees) into a tulip glass; Raison D'Etre impresses with a rich mahogany color. It is alive with a fair amount of carbonation, which stays consistent throughout the experience. On initial pour the head is brought to the top of the tulip. It dissipates rather quickly though, leaving behind a nice ring in its wake, with minimal lacing.

Smell: The aroma is of sweet Belgian deliciousness with maybe a hint of raisin. So yes the Belgian beet sugars and green raisons seem to be in play! Though the aromas are not overwhelmingly present, it does excite the senses and is rather inviting!

Taste: With the first drink, I am delighted with not only a fruity booziness, but to my surprise the taste of what?...Raisins! This is a true Belgian dark, so no disappointment in that respect. In time the raisins seemingly give way to the taste of booziness and Belgian beet sugars, though it is enjoyable through each sip.

Mouth feel: Once again it IS a true Belgian dark, and don't let the alcohol percentage of eight fool you. It feels heavier than eight percent, which is not meant as a negative or a positive. Carbonation is not an issue, with a good amount present. It has a full bodied, fruity and heart warming boozy feel that does not disappoint and sits fairly heavily on, but does not overwhelm the palate.

Many beers draw you in with exciting ingredients, of which often turn out to be more or less marketing. I am happy to say with Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre, this is not the case. Dogfish has a reputation for brewing some very interesting beers and raison d is no exception. 'Raison D'Etre' is a French phrase meaning 'reason for existence'. While this may not be MY reason for existence, I did enjoy and would recommend giving it a taste!

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Photo of lsiberian
4.01/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A-This beer pours with a dark amber color and a light head.

S-This beer smells fantastic with a wonderful banana aroma

T-The flavor starts with banana and finishes with a malty hopiness that falls short on my palate the lingering flavor isn't pleasing because it lacks a definite flavor.

M-It starts with a tantalizing refreshing fizz that lingers long after the swallow. But again it seems caught between two places.

O-Good beer that has a fantastic smell, but seems to struggle in other areas. I've heard it's a beer that divides it's drinkers. This is definitely not my beer.

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Photo of 57md
3.55/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Pours a reddish brown with at least a finger of head that dissipates relatively quickly. The notable notes in the nose are both raisins and Belgian yeast. As for the flavor, a light essence of toffee joins the malt. The maltiness grows more defined as this offering warms. The finish is dominated by an alcohol burn that is fairly potent considering the ABV is not terribly high.

All-in-all, this beer is thin for the style. It is tasty, but nothing very special.

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Photo of Nick_Foltz
4.38/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This beer really took me by surprise. A velvety texture, with a unique finish - the Raison does not disappoint. It has a slightly tangy and subtle white grape linger with a slight sweetness to it. Definitely a conversational piece and well worth trying.

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Photo of ronniebruner
3.02/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Beer has an overpowering aroma of sugary raisins, sugars and malts. Has a very earthy body, light coloring, and a nice lace. Beer is a bit pungent and has a strange tinge to it. I expect much better from Dogfish Head, but this is not exactly he worst beer on the planet. Try it because it is a Dogfish, but stick to one bottle versus a 6 pack.

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Photo of Chickenhawk9932
3.45/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark amber with a slight tan head.

Smells of raisin, earthy beet notes, and malt - burnt sugar.

Taste raisin up front backed by caramelized sugar notes. Body is a bit thin and it is woody and dry like a wine. Not a bad beer, but not great either - it is a little confusing to the palate.

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Photo of stride28
3.6/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Drank out of the glass bottle. The smell was pleasant, with a soft aroma that carried a thick sweetness, with definite traces of raisin carried throughout. In terms of taste, the beer is very sweet, almost overpoweringly so. The raisin and sugar are apparent, masking the alcohol until the aftertaste. Overall, the sweet mixture gives this beer a unique and strong character that can at times be overwhelming. Consuming a single bottle of this beer, in my opinion, is enjoyable for its unique and sweet flare; anything more would be a bit too much sweetness.

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Photo of mattbk
3.79/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: Deep ruby/light brown. Clear. Apeears fairly thick, lightly carbonated.
S: Dark fruit, all the way. Reminds me of a dubbel. Raisins, yes. Maybe a bit of chocolate. Pretty one dimensional, but still good.
T: Hmm, yes, the dark fruit, but the carbonation is actually higher than I would have thought, scrubbing flavor off my tongue. Additionally, it's a bit drier than I would have expected, which leads to a papery sort of flavor. It is possible this suffered from a bit of oxidation, no date on bottle. Still, not bad, lacking in flavor a bit. There is also come chocolate in this flavor profile as well. The chocolate is just a bit out of place. No alcohol in taste.
M: A bit drier than I would have liked, and more carbonated as well.
O: Definitely not a bad beer. Just a bit lacking in terms of complexity and flavor.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
3.11/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The beer is auburn hued. Autumnal colors of ruby, crimson, russet. Small off white head that fades pretty quickly to a thin, wispy layer atop the beer. The aroma offers sweet malt, toffee, raisins, brown sugar, clove, a touch of holiday spice. Really sweet throughout. Bitter kick in the finish. Sweet raisins soaked in the booze. Fun to try, but best in small quantities. Too sweet. I don't consider this in the Belgian style at all. Where is the yeast and bread character that is so appreciated and associated with a Belgian strong dark ale? I appreciate the fact that Sam brews interesting beers, but I won't return to this one.

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Photo of M_C_Hampton
4.19/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: poured from a 12 oz bottle into a goblet, pours a rich brown with a short tan head that dissipates quickly leaving some lacing, clear

S: Belgian yeasty smells up front mixed with raisins, plums, prunes, figs, heavy on sweetness

T: sweet malt flavors with notes of prunes and raisins, sour cherry, bready yeast

M: full bodied, alcohol is there, aftertaste is subdued and malty, good carbonation

O: not a bad American made take on the style, flavors are a little light, nice as it warms up, would be a good into to the style as the taste is less aggressive

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Photo of beerme626
3.87/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle from Good Foods in Lexington, poured into a tulip glass.
A: A nice one finger head on a dark, syrup-colored beer
S: Lots of raisins and malt. Nice, but not enticing.
T: Yummy, but not stellar.
M: Could be more. Sits pleasantly, but just sits.
O: A good beer that could be more.

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

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

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Photo of SlothB77
3.93/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a mug from a 12 oz bottle

A: Amber-brown, almost scarlet, thin light tan head.

S: Very weak smell of raisins and cranberries.

T: A smooth, sweet and sour taste. Not bitter at all. A subtle but distinctive flavor. Maybe a little shoe polish or leather.

M: Light carbonation, light acidity, light-bodied.

O: A very nice beer. Because the flavor is subtle, this is one beer you can have several of in a night and not be overwhelmed. I think this beer gets better as the night goes on (no, that isn't the case with all of them, haha.)

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

A- Pours a deep brown color with little to no head. Lacing is ok. Very translucent except for the dark color. Tinges of red throughout the body.

S- Starts off with a big sweet flavor with hints of dark fruit flavors. Semi-sweet caramel flavors are also prominent throughout. Caramel and dark fruits become the dominant and presiding flavors. Pretty complex.

T- Very similar to the scent. Starts with big caramel flavors and some sweetness. The sweetness reminds me of brown sugar. Caramel is dominant throughout the drink, but the dark fruit flavors pick up midway through. Belgian yeast is detectable at the end with a slight earthy flavor. Raisins are only slightly present in the dark fruit flavors. Ends with a lingering caramel malt flavor.

M- Relatively high level of carbonation. Not quite as thick as the deep color and flavor profile would suggest, but still slightly creamy. Alcohol is well hidden and non-detectable. A good session beer.

Overall, this is a very solid beer. Not one that is overwhelmingly good, but one for a good change of pace. I think this would be a good starter beer for people looking to get into the other Belgian styles (dubbel, trippel).

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

A: A medium-dark copper with good clarity. The head is tan and thin, the ring of bubbles around the glass last but the rest dissipates. There is some lacing on the glass that quickly slides down back into the beer.

S: Green raisin and alcohol are the first scents to hit your nose along with a Belgian yeast pepper aroma and malt sweetness. The fruitiness is moderately-strong with moderate alcohol, yeast and malt aromas. There is a little graininess to the malt in the background. no perceived hop aroma.

T: A moderately light malt sweetness and hops bitterness with some of the moderate alcohol balancing the sweetness. The balance ends ups slightly towards the bitter. There is a light raisin and plum flavor with moderately-light peppery notes and a light alcohol sweetness. The finish is medium and the aftertaste is of sweetness and fruity flavors.

M: Medium-full bodied with a moderately-strong carbonation and some alcohol warmth.

O: The fruit component is a bit lighter than you'd expect both from being brewed with raisin and for a Dark Strong although the brew calls it a Belgian Brown. When I think if this as a Dark Strong it seems disappointing thin on the flavors and note fruity enough but when I think of a Brown brewed with Belgian yeast this all makes sense as is fairly enjoyable which is how I scored it.

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Photo of ColdWaffles
3.55/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Looks as it said it would. A nice looking "mahogany" colored ale. Started with a nice head that died pretty quickly. Not much lacing.

Smell: Sweet smell, I can pick up some of the raisin along with what is almost a "soft" apple cider smell.

Taste: Raisin, beet sugar, yeast, booze. A lot of flavor here, just might be trying to do a bit much.

Mouthfeel: Medium to light body with a sweet richness that demands your attention.

Not something I'd personally go back to, but an interesting beer none the less.

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

A: poured a dark amber brown in color with pale yellow highlights and a very thin head that left very little lacing sticking to the glass.

S: lots of sweetness oozing out of the aroma consisting of belgian yeast, dark fruits, burnt sugars, plenty of caramel with signs of booze, ever so slight hop presence and mild apple fruit notes.

T: the raisin dark fruit character was more dominant on the palate alongside belgian yeast, burnt sugar, carmel sweetness, well balanced booze heat, a touch of apple notes, and a hint of hops.

M: the brew was medium in body with a moderate amount of carbonation which had a dark fruity, sweet,slightly hoppy, boozy and sticky finish.

O; I thought it was an OK belgian strong dark but had great dark fruity character

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Photo of partypak
4.72/5  rDev +29%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

This tasting was a two year bottle from the celler. served cold 40f the head was a 1 inch in frosted mug.. left fast mice lacing in the glass. nice red brown color. taste smooth and creamy no sharp notes a nice smooth finish. this beer tames out so good with age. the draw back this goes down easy and fast be careful this is in a class by it self one of the best.

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

12oz bottle.

A: Reddish brown with a nice off-white head.

S: Cloves, bubblegum, grapey candi sugar, melted caramel, and raisins in the nose.

T: Caramel, brown sugar, banana, lots of raisin, touch of booze, a bit yeasty, light roasted malt, grainy and mildly sweet in the finish.

M: Medium-bodied with zesty carbonation. A bit sticky.

O: I recognize why some people don't like it, but I've always liked this beer.

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Photo of BlackBelt5112203
3.59/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle poured into a wine glass at cellar temperature.

L – Deep amber color with a 2-finger bubbly tan head. Decent retention but not really any lacing. Clear with a good amount of bubbles. Head characteristics aren’t really up to par for something that calls itself a Belgian-style ale.

S – Caramel, brown sugar, toasted malt, figs, raisins, and peppery yeast.

T – Sweet nearly all the way through with caramel malt, brown sugar, and dark fruits like raisins and figs. Toasted malt shows up mid-taste and spicy, peppery yeast comes in at the finish. Tasty, but just not as complex as good Belgian strong dark ales.

F – Medium-bodied with decent carbonation, a sticky and mouth-coating feel, and a sweet, spicy, and slightly dry finish. Surprisingly, peppery yeast flavors linger rather than malty sweet flavors.

O – This is a pretty good beer. Unfortunately, it runs the disadvantage of belonging to a style with some of the best beers out there. As I said above, it’s tasty but just not as complex as it needs to be to graduate to the plus-4 tier. Still, I’m glad I tried it.

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Photo of TBoneJones
3.37/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a dark, cloudy cherry mahogany, effervescent and all but lacking a head.
Smells kind of nice..raisin, cedar, some tart fruit.
Tastes like an astringent, brown-sugary dark ale intertwined with tangy fruit. Not my favorite combination, but I'm glad to try this brewery's experiments as always.
Mouthfeel is decent, not a lot of carbonation to speak of.
I wouldnt seek this one out again. I thought this paired horribly with aged cheddar, although i blame the cheddar to try and keep my opinion beer-focused. I would, however, like to try their D' Extra version of this.

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Photo of Ethanol4one
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was sold as a strong, Belgian style ale at Yardhouse in Florida, and it looked great in the glass, dark and crimson.

But the head was just not there on tap in the brew pub with 113 lines. I think a thick Stout style head would work wonders for this beer. Aroma was nice, flavor was spice, like a strong liquid mince meat pie or fruit cake, but with very thin, light body that sends a very clear signal about the ABV lurking in the pint. One or both of two things would help matters: a slightly more sour taste, and a head to speak of.

Of the two, the thing that would drive an impulse buy would be sight-- I'd immediately order it again if I saw this served with a 2 finger head of tight Champagne yeast bubbles next time I'm looking across the bar somewhere that serves it.

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Photo of doubledteague
3.26/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle poured into frosty pint glass.

A- Mahogany brown, head was very slight.

S- Smelled Great! Smells some fruits maybe a slight carmel smell, and by the smell thought it would be delicious.

T- This is where I was let down. Immediate taste of the fruit but that was very brief and faded fast, taste just did not match the smell.

M- Light carbonation, definitely get the 8% abv here.

O- Just about average. Will most likely try this beer again. Feel like I was missin something. Want this beer to be better than what it turned out to be.

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Raison D'Être from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.66 out of 5 based on 4,286 ratings.
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