Photography by Daniel Barceló

In recent years the word “craft'” has taken flight: a new appreciation for fine-tuned, hand-made products has found new meaning, new heights, and evolved to new tastes. Read how Winter Haven’s Grove Roots Brewing Co. got its start and now offers an array of local crafted brews on tap.

The craft beer revolution has finally made its way to Winter Haven. Likely the city’s most anticipated opening in recent history (quite possibly ever), Grove Roots Brewing Co. does not disappoint. Set in downtown Winter Haven, Joe Dunham has created an oasis that appeals to all ages, born in a formerly empty garage.

The moment you step onto the property, it’s obvious Dunham has brought to Winter Haven what has so desperately been missing: a true, local spot — a gathering place. Rotating a diverse lineup of food trucks and live music, Grove Roots is an ideal relaxed atmosphere to accompany a variety of craft beers, all found in a setting that welcomes the entire family. Yes, even your kids (and dogs!) can enjoy Grove Roots.

Dunham got his start brewing beer about 10 years ago. While working in the corporate world, managing large construction endeavors like oil refineries and mines, Dunham realized that for him, brewing beer was a lot like cooking — and a passion was ignited. He soon began experimenting with flavor notes to awaken the palate through his five-gallon home brewing system. What started as a hobby quickly grew to an obsession. Every recipe Dunham has developed came from that same system, leaving him with over 100 recipes.

After brewing beer for a few years, Dunham knew he had a good thing going. He and his wife, Lucy, spent a year creating a 45-page business proposal. After having the proposal reviewed by a few friends, they all encouraged him to go for it. Though, it was Lucy who ultimately said, “Let’s do this!” Dunham says it was always in the back of his mind to come back home and start a brewery. He had always felt Winter Haven was a city with great potential.

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Along with his biggest supporter, Lucy, Dunham credits his family, local business partners, and private investors for their faith in him. After seeing the blueprints of the brewery, they all felt the concept, the brand, and the beer was exactly what Winter Haven had been waiting for. Aware that they all had to take a leap of faith, Dunham recalls the support from the community and friends that brought it all together. “That was very cool. Usually, in bigger towns, it’s harder to raise funding.”

Following the grand opening in September, Dunham said the response from Winter Haven has been nothing short of amazing. “The whole town has gotten behind us” he says. On day one, over 1,700 people showed up, a number double what had been expected. “Everybody says they are so proud of this place, which makes you immediately have a true customer base.”

The communities’ overall response, Dunham says, “Makes me happier than anything else in here. That’s why we say ‘proudly brewed in Winter Haven,’ because we wanted to make Winter Haven proud. And the community really dug into that. Everything in here, from the décor to the beers, I do to make Winter Haven proud.” The overall community support has been staggering, to the point that Dunham even ran out of his beautifully crafted beers. But, as he says, “We dove off a cliff and survived.”

So, what’s next for Grove Roots? Dunham says the goal is eventually to expand and distribute. When asked what he would like to see next for Winter Haven, Dunham answers, he’d love to see the artisan crowd kick it up, crediting the rise in local coffee roasters and bakeries, and the cultural and economic impacts they are making across the board. “People are moving away from macro sourcing of large shed stores and are going into communities to see what they’re making.” Dunham wants to encourage the folks already here, or those who want to move back, to jump in and increase a community of culture.

Grove Roots is destined to become a local favorite. Joe Dunham truly has made Winter Haven proud.

Look for some local pop-ups to be featured at Grove Roots in the coming months.