Six years after mixing his first home brew on the back porch of his Sanibel home, Walter Costello is poised to open Point Ybel Brewing Company in the Kelly Crossing center on San Carlos Boulevard.
The mixing, fermenting and bright tanks arrived at the brewery last month and soon will be fully operational.
"We should be able to open around the end of July," said Costello.
Point Ybel Brewing Company owner Walter Costello checks the mixing tank just installed in the brewing room. JIM LINETTE.
Being a Sanibel resident, Costello would much prefer to open his brewery on the island, but it is not permitted under current building and planning codes since he intended to distribute product elsewhere.
"The beer has a distinctive island or tropical taste to it," Costello said. "It brings new meaning to island hopping. So I think I have a good location on the main road leading to Fort Myers Beach and not far off the way to Sanibel, too."
Costello plans to have five styles of craft beer ready to serve at the brewery's bar. They include a pale ale, a red, an India pale ale, an American dark ale and a Belgian saison.
Each style has a tropical name, like Sanibel Red, Black Mangrove, Endless Summer Pale Ale, Snook Bite and Yay. Sanibel Red is the recipe of business partner Peter Kendell, another Sanibel resident. Instead of trying to open two breweries, they joined forces. In fact, Kendell and Costello are charter fishing guides on the island since the 1990s.
After several years of brewing and sharing with family and friends, the first public exposure for all five Point Ybel beers came at Beer in the Bushes at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation on April 20. They were one of the most popular beers sampled by the patrons, especially Yay.
"Yay is a blend of Sanibel key limes, lemons and bird pepper," said Costello. "All local ingredients give Yay a strong tropical flavor."
All of Costello's beer recipes are completely personal in nature, tested in small batches until just the right blend is achieved.
"Recipes are all trial and error," he said. "You start out with brewing kits, then you move to brewing from scratch. I've ruined a lot of beer in small batches trying to get the right recipe."
Costello spent one year securing his federal brewing license and last summer moved into retail space at 16120 San Carlos Blvd. in Kelly Crossing. He has been building and remodeling the space ever since.
"Craft beer is blowing up in this country right now," said Costello. "Florida is becoming a mecca for craft beer. They are opening here every week. We are only the second craft brewery in Fort Myers. Craft beer now has a nationwide 10 percent market share, so it can't be stopped now. People are willing to pay a premium for a good quality craft beer."
Point Ybel beers are or will be served at island bars and restaurants that offer it. It is only available in draught kegs for now, but Costello one day wants to check out bottling it in bottles and cans.
When operating, patrons can order food while they spend time at the bar or take it home. Those with a big taste for the Point Ybel beers will be able to purchase a 32-ounce growler at the brewery, essentially a large refillable beer bottle to take some home.
Always looking ahead, Costello also has an eye on future expansion of the brewery and customer attractions, perhaps Saturday barbecue events.
But for right now, it's all about the beer!