I've met John and had some great converastion at his place there in Austin. He was very nice and was pretty forth coming with answers to the questions I asked. I would have a very hard time questioning his integrity. I have eaten his beef ribs and can tell you they are amazing! I can also tell you his pit design is spot on and works well for him. I do think there is something to a well designed pit versus the cook. Why do so many championship teams cook on Jambo's? Because they cook great due to thier design. You still have to have the basics of cooking down but a cooker can make or break you!
The pickle juice does not seem that far fetched to me. If they are serving pickles as a condiment, what do you do with the left over pickle juice? Cross utilization of product is critical in the food industry. It sounds like John has it figured out! As mentioned before, Paul Kirk mentions this in one of his books and I've seen it in a couple more as well.