November 6, 2018 – Seaside-area coffee and beer lovers are in for a new treat: Amelia Loftus, the talented roaster and brewer behind Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasting, has just set up shop in the Press Box space in the Monterey County WeeklyBuilding at 1123 Fremont St.
The move is something of a homecoming for Loftus, who started roasting her character-filled, organic, principally medium-roast, single-origin coffees and blends at her farm in Royal Oaks in 2012 and began selling them early on at the Pacific Grove and Marina farmers’ markets.
Two years ago, Loftus opened her own small café in Watsonville and began pulling back on the Monterey County farmers’ markets. The café attracted a strong following, but Loftus says business was not quite brisk enough to fully utilize her sizable new kitchen, warehouse and roasting capacity.
Then out of the blue, about two months ago Weekly founding editor and CEO, Bradley Zeve, who remembered her coffee from the local farmers’ markets, called to offer the Press Box space, which had been formerly occupied by Perfectly Pressed Juice. No need for financing or debt. Turnkey.
“It’s just perfect,” Loftus says of the large capacity, modern, airy space—not to mention its populous, urban location. After just opening on Monday, the Seaside shop is receiving roasted beans, batter for the muffins and other foods from the Watsonville location, and local residents who miss Loftus’ coffee from the farmers’ markets are beginning to find out about the new shop and supply the demand.
“It seems like a great fit for the community,” Zeve says, noting that he loves Hidden Fortress’s coffee and likes that the business is local, organic, and has successfully made a move from the farmers’ markets to a brick-and-mortar operation. “It’s exciting when a small business finds its legs.”
For her part, Loftus, who had recently been tied up managing the Watsonville location, says the new arrangement has allowed her to hire a new manager, giving her time to concentrate on what she loves most.
“Now I’m able to focus more on the coffee,” says Loftus, who sources her beans from small growers and has installed a new pour-over system at her Seaside location. In her roasting, Loftus aims for a sweet spot that she describes as “comfort food.”
“I go for the rich middle tones,” Loftus says. “My happy medium is rich, earthy, chocolaty tones.”
Before starting Hidden Fortress, Loftus spent 15 years helping to found and manage Seven Bridges Cooperative—a now defunct Santa Cruz home brew outfitter for both beer and coffee aficionados and something of an incubator for the Santa Cruz craft beer scene. She’s a brewer who likes chocolate in her beer and one of the first beers she’ll pour at her newly installed taps in Seaside is Corralitos Brewing’s 3CP, a porter containing chocolate, coconut and Hidden Fortress coffee.
Loftus is particularly excited about rounding out the taps with other brewers she got to know and help launch through Seven Bridges, as well as new ones that have cropped up since. The idea is offer beer from a geographic range spanning from Half Moon Bay to Big Sur. A wine program is also in the works.
In Seaside’s burgeoning food and drink scene, Loftus will be joining artisanal coffee roaster Acme Coffee Roasting, for which she says she has great respect, and a startup coffee house and bar called Counterpoint Coffee, coming from Max Georis, a musician, producer and son of local restaurateur and wine maker, Walter Georis.
Loftus says she looks forward to meeting them, and is hoping to encourage the kind of collegiality that permeates the local craft beer world.
“I’d like to see more of that in the indy coffee world,” she says.
Hidden Fortress will hold its grand opening late this month or in early December; meantime, it will be open 6:30am to 2:30pm. In the new year, the hours will extend to 6:30pm, but until then, Loftus wants to avoid getting ahead of herself.
“I just want to take care of my people and be sustainable in my business operation,” she says.