Point Ybel Brewing’s beer in high demand
Snook Bite. YAY! Sanibel Saison. Endless Summer. Sanibel Red. Black Mangrove.
Are these titles of new summer rock songs coming to a digital download near you?
Nope. Instead, try just some of the creative names of beers from one of the most popular brewing companies in the area – Point Ybel.
Sanibel residents Walt Costello and Pete Kendall are off to a roaring start to their beer brewing partnership, which celebrated its one-year anniversary this past December, with demand largely outpacing their supply.
It’s a good problem to have.
“Keeping up with the demand has been a challenge, because it’s been through the roof,” Costello said. “All up and down the coast, craft beer bars are asking for it, but we just can’t keep up with the demand. Point Ybel is real high-end, and people really want it.”
The Point Ybel brewing facility and tasting room is located at 16120 San Carlos Boulevard in Fort Myers and it’s been a destination for locals, tourists and spring breakers for the last year.
There have been over 6,000 growlers (beer to go) sold thus far in 32 and 128 ounce bottles, while the tasting room has been regularly full during peak time, while Costello can’t keep up with the distribution requests being made by bar owners from Tampa Bay to Naples.
“It’s been a great reception,” Costello said. “We have our core base of regulars, the craft beer nerds. Then there’s lots of tourists from the midwest and the spring breakers will be here soon. The crowds kind of change through the year.”
The road to Point Ybel Brewing Company started with Costello developing a taste for beer with flavor, not the regular lighter beers which are popular.
“In college, I was always the annoying one,” Costello said. “When everyone would load up with Bud Light, I would be sitting in front of the cooler picking a micro brew. I am more of a beer nerd and always liked imported stuff, I’ve never been a light beer drinker.”
Costello and his wife, Amy, lived on Sanibel where he was a boat captain. But after brewing his first batch, which was a Pale Ale a day after the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series, the seed of opening their own brew company sprouted.
“The first thing I tell people who are interested in brewing their own beer, is they will want to start their own company after the first batch you end up liking,” he said. “There’s nothing like it.”
The Costello couple purchased a Brew Magic system and that’s when the foundation of Point Ybel Brewing Company was built.
The second big step came when Costello started hearing through the grapevine about another Sanibel resident who was very interested in brewing his own beer.
Enter Pete Kendall.
“I was hearing about another guy who wanted to find someone to brew his beer – Sanibel Red – and through word of mouth, we got together one day and decided to jump into it together,” Costello said. “A year after that, we have our full brewhouse.”
Kendall moved down from Vermont 11 years ago along with his family, and has been a fan of craft beer for a long time.
“It’s fun to be able to drink your own beer,” Kendall said. “We are finding out we can’t make enough of it, though. It’s been fun seeing the evolution of the business the last year.”
Ultimately, it’s the taste of the beer which will dictate success versus failure, but looks always help.
Labeling and branding has been an important tool for Point Ybel’s jump into its current popularity.
The name “Point Ybel” was selected due to its strong connection with Sanibel, making it a unique name in itself.
“We didn’t want anything generic, but we wanted something to do with Sanibel and the lighthouse is the biggest landmark there,” Costello said. “So we chose Point Ybel (point on Sanibel where the lighthouse is located). It reminded me of home.”
The company’s most popular brew, Snook Bite, has also drawn in fans due to its name.
“We first were hoping to target the fishermen who came in and usually popped a Budweiser after,” Costello said. “When they started seeing ‘Snook Bite’, they took right to it.”
Point Ybel Brewing Company is still known as a nano-brewery, but is on the threshold of breaking through to a micro-brewery, with expansion potentially on the horizon.
They currently have a four-barrel system and five eight-barrel (252 gallons) fermenters. The Costello’s half-barrel Brew Magic system is still being used as a pilot system.
It takes approximately four hours to brew one batch and up to three weeks from brew time to it being poured in a mug, although different brews (IPA, stout, sour, Pilsner, etc.) take varying lengths of time to ferment.
Alcohol content is also a main factor to choice of beer, as well. Snook Bite is 7.2 percent, Endless Summer 5.5, Sanibel Red 6.5 and Black Mangrove 8.5.
Costello added they are pioneering a barrel-aging method, which helps produce sour beer, which is picking up popularity throughout the country.
“We are able to push the boundaries because we are a smaller brewery,” Costello said. “We don’t want to do anything too generic, because you can get those kinds of beer anywhere. All of our beers have something special going on in them.”
People are agreeing and they are liking it, despite micro and nano-breweries having to have to fight the Florida state legislature.
The momentum of popularity is being thrust throughout the United States, but Florida is still not jumping on board. Just last year, there was a bill to close all tasting rooms, allowing micro breweries to just sell their product through outside distribution.
“Most states are passing laws to help breweries, but down here, things are a little different,” Costello added. “We still can’t sell the 64-ounce growlers, but hopefully momentum is slowly changing because the industry is growing.”
Currently, one can find Point Ybel products in 30 establishments in Sanibel, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach and Naples.
At their home base on San Carlos Boulevard, live music is offered in their tasting room, with doors opening at 1 p.m. Costello also likes introducing new kinds of beer each weekend to keep variety, with over 90 different styles of beer brewed thus far.
“Our goal is to become the brewery of the coastline and our beer reflects that,” Costello said.
And thus far, there has been no disagreement.