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Belt’s Beer Garden: Reindeer Games

A pair of Estonian stouts for Christmas Eve. Sori Brewing’s Shadow Game I & Shadow Game III

While I primarily focus on American breweries, there are so many amazing breweries around the world that I just can’t find or get in the states. However, to celebrate Christmas I have a pair of beers from Europe that I’m really excited to share with you - my first ever beers from Estonia!!!

Sori Brewing, which runs out of an old Soviet-era factory in the capital city of Tallinn, was actually started by a pair of Finns that had moved to Estonia. Initially backed by ~$1 million Euros from more than 300 investors on crowdfunding sources, Sori lives by the motto of “serious beer for not so serious people” and produces a wide variety of styles.

Today I have a pair of beers from their Shadow Game series, a collection of Stouts which now has a dozen variants. I was able to snag the original, Shadow Game I, and their Shadow Game III.

Shadow Game I is an Imperial Stout that was brewed with copious amounts of hazelnuts and Canadian maple syrup. It was then aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels a packs a massive punch with an ABV of 13.1%

Shadow Game III, like it’s brother, is an Imperial Stout but this time they added vanilla from Madagascar and Ethiopian coffee to it before aging it in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels. It’s a bit stronger, clocking in at 13.3%.

Both beers came in smaller 11.2 ounce bottles and cost $12 per bottle.

Shadow Game I

The beer poured a dark and completely opaque black color with just under a finger of tannish brown head topping the beer. The head fizzles down quickly, leaving just a small accumulation around the edge of the glass.

This stout was potent! On the nose there were big notes of roasted malts and hazelnuts with a strong boozy bite sitting right behind. The maple syrup added some sweetness to it but, for the most part, was overshadowed by the nuts and alcohol.

My first sip began with a super quick flash of carbonation and alcohol heat but, almost instantly, both those vanished and much more smooth and palatable notes washed over my tongue.

The hazelnuts appear first and are quickly joined by the roasted malt flavors that add even more nuttiness to the brew. There is also a dark chocolate characteristic that adds some bitterness and some sweetness to the initial wave of flavors.

Midway through, the maple syrup begins to slowly build. And, while it never overpowers the nuts or roasted qualities of the beer, the sticky sweetness really makes this an easy to drink Imperial Stout…even at 13.1%!

The finish is surprisingly clean and just a dash of sticky maple syrup and roasted malt lingers on for a moment or two. However, as you might expect, the beer does sit on the heavier side, which makes it perfect for the cold winter nights.

With its high ABV, it’s perfect for the holidays…it’s so good you can drink it fast and it’ll get you buzzed enough that spending time with your family won’t be so bad.


My first Estonian beer was a delight and I can’t wait to crack open the next!

Shadow Game III

This version of Shadow Game, like the one before it, poured a thick, dark black color. However, there was virtually no head on this one. When it was first poured there was a flash of whitish tan head that fizzled away almost instantly.

The aroma was almost all bitter coffee with just a touch of sweetness from the vanilla. There was also a hint of booze and oakyness from the bourbon barrels used. But, despite this having a higher ABV, the alcohol was actually more well hidden here than in the last.

My first sip, as the scent foretold, began with a huge burst of that roasted Ethiopian coffee. There was a little more bitterness to this one, as the major flavor profile was coffee, but it wasn’t too bad of a bitter bite.

Midway through the sip there was a pop of vanilla sweetness but, otherwise, the Madagascar vanilla was vastly outgunned by the coffee and instead worked behind the scenes.

While there wasn’t a huge vanilla flavor per se, I know it cut into the booze and allowed for this to be another very smooth Imperial Stout.

A sweeter iced coffee flavor lingered for a moment (the vanilla appearing more in the aftertaste than the actual sip) with a small twinge of bitterness sitting at the back of my throat. But, for the most part, Shadow Game III ended just as smoothly as the first one.

And, despite having a 13.3% ABV, the alcohol was virtually undetectable in this beer. There was not one hint of booze…and that made it a very dangerous stout!

Overall, Shadow Game III was another amazing stout from Sori. While I liked the first one just a tad bit more, this one was quite delicious as well.

Note: Even though these beers are delicious, I would recommend sharing them (if you’re having more than one). II didn’t because, well, they’re delicious!! But, after a while, I wish I had…learn from my mistake guys :)

And a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!!

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