In 1998, Dogfish Head created a Belgian-style brown ale called Raison D’Etre, which translated from French means reason for being. The name is a play on words of sorts, as it is brewed with raisins, along with beet sugar and Belgian-style yeast. This heavier 8 percent ABV beer1 was brewed with the intention of pairing it with steak much like you would a red wine. Fast forward nine years and Dogfish Head decided to take the Raison D’Etre recipe and add in even more raisins, malts and brown sugar to create what Dogfish calls its “Raison D’Etre, with a little extra,” aptly named Raison D’Extra.

Dogfish Head Raison D Extra bottle

According to Dogfish Head’s, Raison D’Extra was first released in February of 20072 and then wasn’t released again until December 2014. At that point they discontinued the bottling of the Raison D’Etre, moving it to a draft-only release. Having had the Raison D’Etre a few times in the past, I wasn’t ever particularly enthralled with it, not hating it but not grabbing it off the shelf every time I saw it. When I saw the Raison D’Extra was being released however, the idea intrigued me and I grabbed the only two bottles I saw available, despite the fact the cost per bottle was the same price as a six pack of its little brother.

With the ramped up recipe, the Raison D’Extra clocks in at a hefty 15 to 18 percent ABV, though most places I see it listed as 18 percent. Though Dogfish Head is widely distributed, because of some state laws, the high ABV keeps them from selling it in some states.3 The interesting thing I noticed is that there is surprisingly no bottling date or ABV anywhere on the label. As a beer that is quite hefty in the alcohol content and something that could be cellared, the fact that they are both missing is odd in my opinion.

Popping off the yellow danger symbol cap,4 the Raison D’Extra pours not quite opaque, but crisp and clear with a deep reddish brown color. There isn’t a lot of head even on a vigorous pour, and what’s left after it settles barely rings around the edge of the glass. Bringing the glass to my nose my nostrils are immediately filled with boozy malts, a sweet rich fruity aroma that’s not quite specifically raisins and a hint of caramelized sugars.

Dogfish Head Raison D Extra

Taking the first sip there are a ton of tasty malts upfront, a massive amount of sweetness and some rich fruits that almost completely mask the alcohol note that I know should be there. The tell tale warmth of the high ABV quickly spreads however, assuring me that though it’s not a dominant note, it is still there. The finish is sweet and malty as well, but in an almost lighter sense, with the flavors being not quite as rich and bold as the taste up front. It’s quite a long finish actually, coating my mouth and lingering long after I would have expected it to. The mouthfeel is ideal, with a good amount of weight to it and just enough carbonation to keep it interesting without it being overly carbonated or too flat.

As it warms up the alcohol note becomes only slightly more apparent on the nose, though the rest stays mostly the same. The taste is quite similar, though maybe a touch less sweet as the boozy note becomes more prominent.

Dogfish Head Raison D'Extra (2014)
BREWERY: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Inc.
LOCATION: Milton, Del.
STYLE: Belgian strong dark ale
ABV: 18 percent
IBU: 40
PRICE: $10.99
RELEASE DATE: December 2014
AVAILABLE IN: 12-ounce bottles
I’m a huge fan of rich, flavorful and high ABV beers that I can sip on, swirl around my mouth and enjoy slowly like a nice scotch or wine. The Raison D’Extra delivered just the experience I was hoping for, making it a far better beer in my opinion than the Raison D’Etre. The sweetness was strong, but the overall profile was balanced and kept it from being cloying. It was so well balanced in fact, that I barely tasted the alcohol, making it very easy to drink without having to struggle past a hot profile. I’m hoping that this will be a sporadic release, much like the 120 Minute IPA, but even if it’s only once a year I’ll settle for that over once every seven years. To date I think this is one of my favorite beers I’ve reviewed, and it definitely ranks up there with some of my all time favorites. Despite the higher price, it’s a beer that I won’t hesitate to pick up any time I see it on the shelves, and I can easily suggest you do the same.
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