The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 3 - October 8, 2008


When the right drink is a brew

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTOS/LIZA MORROW Beer connoisseurs Chad Coey, Rocky Fair
and John Paul Taylor enjoy a variety of brews.

On a warm Anna Maria Island evening, a good, cold, wet one is satisfying. But imagine a beer that did not merely satisfy, but enliven, invigorate, fortify and inspire?

Instead of the ordinary can of suds from the fridge, how about a lusty and frothy ale with aromas and flavors that captivate as well as satiate, stimulating the palate instead of stupefying it? A handcrafted porter, stout, lager or spirit.

Foamy, fruity … and flippant in name, Rogue Brewery beers were all the buzz at the Waterfront Restaurant on Thursday, Oct. 2. The tasting event was called Roguetoberfest. An evening of friends, neighbors, Frauleins, weisswurst, sausages, prizes, beer and plenty of it. Bottle after bottle of Rogue brews were opened, not only to quench the crowds thirst, but also for the beers to earn their due respect.

This is the work and passion of the owners of the Waterfront Restaurant. For three years Jason and Leah Suzor have sponsored a wine tasting each Thursday from Mother’s Day through February. However, every fifth Thursday is reserved for beer tasting.

Jason explained, "We do a lot of traveling to visit family out west and go snowboarding and skiing. I’ve always loved exotic beers . All the different flavors. We were surrounded by microbreweries and I got into discovering the best ones."

Leah agreed, "I grew up in Germany and probably had my first taste of beer at 13 or 14. That sounds strange but in Germany beer is kinda a staple and well, legal to drink at 13."

Rogue Beers are one of the Suzors’ favorites. Even the name sounds exciting and in each glass of good, frothy beer there’s a story. It begins with an American revolution, the Craft Beer Revolution of the 1970s and 1980s. Young American brewers, often influenced by the traditional brewing styles of England, Germany and Belgium, decided to make their own beers. Each brew reflects the characters of the not only the hops which are added at varying times in the brewing process but the personalities of the brewers.

Rogue Brewery has its tale. In Oregon in 1987, two fraternity brothers, Jack Joyce and Bob Woodell, with friends Rob Strausser and Jeff Schiltz, started to infuse their home-brewed beer with bitterness and aromatics. Eventually, they joined up with a woman named Mo Neimi, who agreed to rent them a place to build a pub. The rent would be cheap if they agreed to hang a nude photograph of Mo, herself in the bathtub in their bar. The photograph of Mo still hangs today just left of the bar.

Different from the restrained aromas and flavors of English hops, American hops are a regular brass band, giving American pale ales their signature strident aromas of grapefruit, flowers and pine.

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story
Investment Corner

Are alternative investments a way to go?

The period from 1999 to 2008 is becoming known as a lost decade for stocks, due to the far below average returns achieved by the major stock indexes. My last article here in the Sun a couple weeks ago, titled Chicken Little and the Facts of Life, took a reasonably optimistic view that the U.S. economy and system have survived other past crises and that this one, too, shall pass.

More importantly, I believe the investment returns for beaten down, sub-par returning asset classes have the best chance of providing above average returns in the next segment of time. But, since many investors won’t be willing to get into stocks until they feel good again, which will most likely be after several good years of performance from the market they are now shunning, I thought it might be valuable to explore some options for trying to earn more return than offered on bank CDs and government bonds, but not take the full risk of the short-term volatility of investing in the stock market.

Fortunately, there are alternatives, not surprisingly being categorized as alternative investments. There are several forms, but most have a goal of providing 50 to 70 percent of the expected long-term stock market return of 10 percent annualized, but with limited volatility. These vehicles fall into several categories, but today are available for investors with $1,000 to several hundred thousand or more to dedicate to these investment vehicles.

These alternative investments are too detailed to completely describe here, but we can review some basic categories to get you started.

Market neutral funds: These are also sometimes called long-short funds, meaning that the manager of the fund owns some investments which will benefit from rising price trends and, simultaneously, some which he expects to decline in price and will profit because he has sold them short. Short selling is a technique of borrowing a security, selling it, hopefully to buy it back after a price decline, then returning it to the lender. Instead of a buy low- sell high, the order of the transaction is reversed.

Some market neutral funds use a formula-based approach for maximum discipline, and others rely on a manager’s intuition and skill. Either can be successful. However, most of the best market neutral funds tend to exhibit long-term results in the 4 to 7 percent range for annualized return. Not bad, but it you should not anticipate these funds providing higher returns than equities over most 10-year periods of time or longer – this last 10 years notwithstanding.

Structured products: Not to be confused with the exotic, leveraged structured investment vehicles currently turning many financial institutions into sinking ships, structured products are a bond or note issued by a major institution. Rather than a traditional bond structure, which pays a flat rate of interest on the principal value, structured products typically offer a part of the upside of a particular index, say the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and limit the downside risk over a particular period of time.

There are countless combinations of the up/down relationship, but it may well be something along the lines of providing 50 percent of the profit of a particular index over the next 12 months, while promising no downside risk and ,at a minimum, a return of the principal amount invested.

The characteristics available at any moment have a lot to do with recent market trends and the pricing in the options markets, since the issue will be creating an options strategy to provide the guarantees indicated in the bond. Of course, a guarantee is only as good as the company making it, and the investor should be confident in the credit quality of the issuing institution. Interestingly, some of these structured products are available with FDIC insurance, as I recently learned.

Alternative investment pools: Most of our readers have heard of hedge funds and private equity funds, vehicles which generally require very large investments to access. More recently, funds have been established which take the pool of money from many investors and hire many managers in the different types of vehicles we have reviewed today, plus others like real estate, venture capital and perhaps even timberland. Funds like these allow the investors to access 8 to 10 different strategies from one investment vehicle, when perhaps they might have only had enough money to invest in one or two directly.

I find myself thinking about how attractive these alternative investments sound, especially right now, and wonder if that is a sign that perhaps traditional equity investments are about to do much better than the alternatives because everyone is attracted to the alternatives and ignoring basic common stock investing. After all, the investment most sought after today is rarely the best performer over the next few years.

But, I do believe that these instruments of investing can reduce volatility and that if that fact keeps an investor from abandoning his plan when the stock market goes through it’s rough times, then that’s not such a bad thing.

Tom Breiter is president of Breiter Capital Management, Inc., an Anna Maria based investment advisor. He can be reached at 778-1900. Some of the investment concepts highlighted in this column may carry the risk of loss of principal, and investors should determine appropriateness for their personal situation before investing.

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