clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pflugerville Barbecue Restaurant Owner and Pitmaster John Brotherton Dies at 49

Fellow Texas pitmasters share their condolences and memories of the owner of Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue on social media

If you buy something from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

A tray of barbecue.
A barbecue tray from Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue.
Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

John Brotherton, the owner of Texas restaurant Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue, died on Monday, January 15, at the age of 49. His son, Braeden Brotherton, shared the news on the Pflugerville restaurant’s Facebook page.

On January 4, John Brotherton experienced what is being described as a “medical event,” after which he had to go to the hospital and was placed in a medically induced coma in the intensive care unit. His friend Russell Roegels, pitmaster and owner of Katy barbecue restaurant Roegels Barbecue Co., started a GoFundMe campaign to help the family with medical bills. There had been an event at Brotherton’s Black Iron this past weekend Saturday, January 13, where people were encouraged to visit and order food from the restaurant, which has and remains open for service.

During this time, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue will remain open, per Braeden’s Facebook post. In December 2023, John made pitmaster Bill Dumas, Bobby Holley, and Julia Daycock co-owners of the restaurant. His son wrote on social media that his father “would never want us to stop just because he’s gone.”

Brotherton was born in Liberty, Texas, studied at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, and worked non-restaurant jobs in Austin, per Houston Chronicle. He started cooking and smoking on his own and then ventured into the barbecue scene by opening food truck Hall of Flame in Pflugerville in 2011. After he closed that truck in 2013, he opened a new physical restaurant in Round Rock — Curly’s Carolina, TX — that same year with Jay Yates of the Curly’s Perfect Pig truck. That restaurant closed in 2014. After some time off from the smoked meats world, Brotherton began a smoked meats pop-up and catering business under the name Brotherton Barbecue in 2015.

And then, in 2016, friend Kelly Gerry opened his new restaurant Black Iron Eats in Pflugerville. Brotherton made meats for the business, and then, in 2017, merged Black Iron and Brotherton into one entity.

Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue became known for its barbecue — particularly its smoked meat sandwiches — and other dishes. Often, the restaurant made a version of Texas Monthly’s lauded barbecue lists, including best barbecue dishes in 2018 (its smoked brisket carne guisada), the best new barbecue in 2019, and the top 50 barbecue restaurants of 2021.

Members of the Texas barbecue community have been sharing their condolences and memories of John Brotherton on social media. Austin barbecue truck LeRoy & Lewis co-owner and pitmaster Evan LeRoy reminisced on Instagram about when he and Brotherton tied for the people’s choice award in the Houston/Austin Barbecue Throwdown contest in 2017. He wrote that John “was more excited for us than he was for himself and that’s all you really need to know about the man.”

East Austin spot JNL Barbecue shared on Instagram that “we lost a barbecue and community-supporting icon” and that Brotherton was “a passionate man that made everyone’s life better once he stepped into it with cargo shorts and a big-ass smile.”

Lexington, Texas, barbecue restaurant Snow’s BBQ owner Kerry Bexley wrote on Instagram that Brotherton “was something special” and that “our new motto is ‘LIVE and LOVE like John.’”

Pitmaster and restaurant owner Esaul Ramos remembered on Instagram about when he working his first food festival for his San Antonio restaurant 2M Smokehouse with Brotherton. He called him “one of the greatest human beings I had the privilege of knowing,”

Out in West Texas, Marfa barbecue restaurant Convenience West BBQ wished Brotherton “vaya con dios” on Instagram. They noted that “the space [he] leave[s] behind will never truly be filled, but for all of us sticking around, we’ll do our best to carry on your kindness, spirit and willingness to help and encourage our fellow man any and every chance we get.”

Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn shared a photo of the two of them on Instagram and wrote, “RIP to one of the good ones.”

Brotherton's Black Iron Barbecue

15608 Spring Hill Lane, , TX 78660 (512) 547-4766 Visit Website