Written by Leigh-Anne Hemenway Pou
Photography by Nate Chappell
At Union Taproom, there’s more than one way to keep your glass half full, and it all starts with a self-pour.
Locals know that, over the last 10 years, downtown Winter Haven has started looking a little different. Thanks to the addition of more modern spots to eat and drink — like Grove Roots Brewing Co., Nutwood, and Tempo 1930 (in addition to old favorites like Tsunami Sushi, Arabella’s, and Jesse’s) — a newer, hipper vibe is inviting more of us to the city’s main thoroughfare, including Colin and Meagan Wells, who’ve taken their investment in Winter Haven one step further by opening downtown’s latest addition, Union Taproom.
Conceived as a place to bring the community together (hence the name), Union Taproom is doing just that — but not in a strictly traditional way. The Taproom is PYOB or, Pour Your Own Beer. Come in, show your ID to get a wristband and start your tab, then get to it, pouring anywhere from a sip to a full glass.
The Central Avenue spot keeps more than 40 beverages on tap at any given time, from Eureka, California’s Winterbraun to closer-to-home selections like Postcard Pils from St. Petersburg. And it’s not just beer; the taps include wine, cider, cold brew, and kombucha, too. Outside, find a rotation of visiting food trucks.
Meagan says this is exactly what she and her husband had in mind as they were dreaming up their joint venture: a cozy space with warm exposed brick, wide-plank floors, and comfy leather couches for relaxing. What was her inspiration?
“I wish I could tell you,” she says, “but this is just what I pictured Union Taproom to be. Seeing it come to life made it all worth the hard work.”
We asked her to tell us a little more about the new business, from the taproom’s upcoming events to why she hates when people call it a bar.
Tell us about your relationship to Winter Haven.
Meagan Wells: I was born and raised in Winter Haven. My parents are Winter Haven natives. Growing up here, I have seen Winter Haven turn in to something so much bigger than it used to be. I am so proud of our town and what it has to offer for all ages in our community.
What gave you the idea to start Union Taproom?
MW: While my family and I were visiting my in-laws in South Carolina, we were introduced to the self-pour concept and fell in love after a few times going. With craft beer making more of an appearance in Winter Haven, I felt for sure our small town would also fall in love. After expressing how much I believed our town would love self-pour, Colin’s wheels started turning, which made mine turn even faster. We researched the business, toured some locations, and started making plans.
What sets the taproom apart from other bars?
MW: It’s funny. Any time someone calls Union Taproom a “bar,” I cringe. I get it, we have beer, but that’s not all we offer, and we don’t even have a bar. Ha! We came up with the name “Union” because it means “to come together.” Our vision was to not only create a family environment everyone can enjoy, but to bring people together at the tap wall for actual conversation. My favorite thing about the self-pour concept is how it actually does bring people together all on its own. From the guy who knows all the beers, to the woman who “doesn’t like beer,” I promise we have something for everyone. It’s hard not to find something out of 40 selections. I wanted to create a space that was hip, comfortable, and full of fun things to try. We have witnessed many relationships develop through beer, on a leather couch.
Do you have traditional bartenders?
MW: We don’t have traditional bartenders because it’s all PYOB: Pour Your Own Beer. We call our crew Beertenders. They are very knowledgeable when it comes to beer and technology. Just because they don’t pour the drink for you doesn’t mean they aren’t tending. They love the familiar faces that come in, and some of them even call it their second home.
What about food? What can we expect to find at the taproom?
MW: Besides our cheese trays, chips, and boiled peanuts, we encourage our customers to bring in their own food. We have a fabulous downtown restaurant selection, and some of them will even deliver to the taproom. We have had food trucks come out from time to time, but we actually have something in the works that will be announced very soon, something we are so excited about.
Do you have special events?
MW: We do! On Wednesdays we have Movie Night when we show different family-friendly flicks. On the weekends we have live music from our amazing local musicians. We show sports games on our four TVs. We also have Paint & Pints once a month, as well as Pups & Pints. We are always coming up with fun events and keep our Union Family updated through our newsletters and social media.
Is Union Taproom family-friendly?
MW: Most definitely. We encourage families to come and hang at the taproom. We literally have something for all ages, whether it be beer, wine, kombucha, cold brew coffee, soda… the list goes on and on.
Winter Haven has changed so much. What else would you want to see here in the next few years?
MW: We are so proud to be a part of Winter Haven. In the next few years, I would love to see Winter Haven continue to grow for the better. I believe we are on a great path leading to more locally owned businesses and family-friendly hangouts.
245 West Central Avenue
Winter Haven, FL 33881