Trill Alternatives is on the quiet end of Pearl Street in Boulder, next door to the Mountain Sun brewpub, and it's definitely worth stopping by for your meds if you are a dispensary shopper.
If you sign them up as your primary center, that is.
1537 Pearl St. Boulder, CO 80302 720-287-0645 www.trillalternatives.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Marijuana prices for members: $13/gram, $33/3.5 grams, $55/quarter ounce, $108/half ounce, $200/ounce for mid-tier; $13/gram, $40/3.5 grams, $75/ quarter ounce, $140/half ounce, $250/ounce for top tier. All patients get 20 percent discount on weekends. Marijuana prices for non-members: $50/eighth. Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? No.
Things were busy the day I was in. I had to wait a good ten minutes for the three people in front of me to finish up before I was led behind the security door by the receptionist and given a brief tour of the stone-walled inner confines and bud-bar area.
The place is cozy, with dark wood floors, low ceilings and dim lighting adding to the moody feel. To the right is a small patient waiting area with leather chairs, but the main focus is the backwards-Z-shaped counter arrangement. Hash is up front, mid-tier herb in the middle, and top-shelf herb along the back in a third wood-and-glass counter. Along the wall to the left, the shop has compiled a pretty impressive selection of smoking tools such as vaporizers, as well as portable e-cig-style vapes and replacement cartridges.
Ointments, edibles and other paraphernalia were laid out in boxes and cubbies along the walls. Ingestible ganja options were pretty diverse. The mostly third-party cookies, treats and drinks -- and prices -- seem on par with every other shop, but unlike many of them, Trill also carries infused butters and oils for those of you looking to make your own stoney foods.
Trill Alternatives is clearly looking at things from a different angle than the open market that is Denver. The shop gives all first-timers a card worth three visits, at member pricing ranging from $33 to $40 depending on quality. But if you haven't signed the shop up as your primary center after those three visits, prices are jacked up to the ridiculously high non-member level of $50 an eighth across the board on both mid- and top-shelf strains. This means that while a patient is paying a little more than $33 for an eighth, a non-patient is going to be paying street prices from four years ago.
Hopefully nobody is going in and paying that, either, because it just isn't worth it. Being used to the Denver scene, where non-member pricing is still higher but almost never that much higher, it's hard for me to be okay with it. But again, I get what Trill Alternatives is doing -- and I can't deny that it's a pretty good sales pitch: Get patients hooked on your top-shelf meds, then jack up the price on them so they either sign you up as a caregiver or go elsewhere. The shop does have plenty of room for patients right now, according to a manager I spoke with. And the MMC has plenty of current patients, judging by the number of people in line behind me when I walked out.
If the quality wasn't as good as it is on the high end, this plan probably wouldn't work. But strains like Trill's Ghost OG and OG Sin were definitely worth coming back for a second time. Both had an amazing silver sheen to the cone-shaped buds; opening the jar stunk up the air in front of my face immediately. No need to put your face down in these jars to get a whiff. Same goes for the ripe orange smell of the Tangerine Haze and the fresh-turned-earth Sour Kush. A few weren't as pungent, like the bland Blue Dream, but all were enticing -- especially knowing I was only paying $40 member pricing for an eighth. Ounces are capped at $250 for members, and the manager told me the shop is about to bring in its latest harvest this weekend...so the shelves will be stocked with coco-fiber-grown organic goodness.
For the most part, the quality difference between the $33 lower shelf and the top shelf was pretty evident. On the low end, buds seemed to still be well produced, but several of the strains, like the 4-Way, seemed to have been rushed to the shelf with little or no time allowed to cure. Others, like the NYC Diesel and its potent (and strange) tangerine smell, were simply underdeveloped. A few jars were down to the last gram or so, which looked especially puny inside the tall, rectangular glass jars. But at least one strain -- the earthy and rich Chocolope -- was worth considering alongside the top-shelf jars. All mid-tier strains were capped at $200 an ounce.
Hash selection was impressively large and diverse (and, for the most part, spendy). Trill's full-melt selection was an enticing mix of blended strains like Golden Goat and several OG hybrids -- all perfectly sifted before being left to dry and cure to a waxy, pebbly consistency. The catch is that the high-end hash starts at $40 a gram, and that's for members as well. It goes as high as $50 per gram, which frankly isn't worth it for any hash.
Granted, the stuff was on par with the best solventless wax from Essential Extracts -- but Essential Extracts stuff is capped at $35 at most dispensaries around Denver. Trill also had a lower-priced full-melt that went for $40/gram; it was equally well-produced, and I ended up taking some home. BHO was selling for between $35 and $40 a gram, and the center also had standard bubble hash going for a fair $20/gram. Member pricing on hash is slightly lower depending on what quality you're going for. Also, Wednesdays is 20 percent-off hash day. Take advantage, man. Take advantage.
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Overall, the shop is worth considering as your primary center, since $30-$40 an eighth is a fair pricing range. On the downside, though, Trill Alternatives' extreme price jump from member to non-member discourages people who may have a caregiver or another shop as their primary center from occasionally enjoying variety when all of Trill's herb sells at $50-plus for 3.5 grams. The woman I spoke with agreed and said that finding a way to strike a better balance on pricing has been a topic of conversation around the shop in recent weeks.
To be fair, the shop does offer discount, $25/eighth daily specials for patients and non-patients, $8 mixed grams, and a jar of shake selling for something like $30 per scoop. And patients get 20 percent off all herb all weekend long. But not being in Boulder often, I'll probably be through with Trill Alternatives once I finish my punch card -- until the non-member pricing comes down to a more reasonable rate.
Page down for strain reviews and photos. Sour Kush Though slightly more wispy than this strain is under perfect conditions, this was a great example, considering this hot summer and the stress it put on a lot of gardens. Amazingly potent rubbery smell that grew to office-stinking levels when the buds were broken up. Clean and crystal-heavy under the scope, but the buds did have a few crackles in them when burned. The taste was as impressive as the smell, and the mouth-coating dark citrus flavor lasted through until the last hit out of a dry pipe and bubbler. Sour Kush has become great strain for me. It's like the Pepto of cannabis in the morning, taking care of whatever odd stomach pain or ailment may be confronting my day. Definitely worth bringing home this week -- and worth you checking out if you're into this strain (at member pricing, that is). Ghost OG Yes, the buds are popcorny -- but almost the entire batch had been trimmed down to small rocket ships of terpines and THC. No stems needed. Easily the most potent, stinking strain they had on the shelves in my visit, this Ghost was a mix of new sneakers, jalapeno peppers and Pledge dish soap (I know I've said this before, but isn't it strange what things smell appealing when talking about cannabis?). The rust-colored buds glistened in the sunlight like a million tiny glowing eyes looking back at you from the calyxes. Unlike the Sour Kush, these buds burned perfectly down to a white ash with no snap-crackle-or-pop soundtrack. For an OG hybrid, it was good this week for relieving lingering back pain -- and since the Ghost is always a surprisingly energetic and uplifting strain, it leaves me functional, albeit maybe a bit talkative and rambling. If this is indicative of Trill's top shelf, it's certainly worth seconds. OG Kush blended full melt hash While icewater hash seems to be generally getting better and better in Colorado, few manufacturers create product that rises to the level of Trill's full-melt hash. Aside from being dry due to being packaged too long in such a small quantity, the half-gram of OG blend I brought home was nearly perfect. It smelled like a bouquet of OG flowers, crumbled in my fingertips and melted down into a bowl of herb with a consistency rivaling butane hash. It was so waxy that it melted and smoked perfectly on top of a hot titanium nail in an oil rig. It added a mellow kick to my day that was a perfect pairing with the Ghost OG to balance out the medicinal side -- and it was just as good all by itself, so I could savor the strain-distinct taste. Only drawback was the hefty price tag. So, remember, as I mentioned in the review: Go on a Wednesday, when hash is 20 percent off. It makes things much easier on the wallet.