wow, this thread really got a lot of replies! Just read through most of it, and you guys were spot on the money- we weren't cooking our brisket long enough. Since then, we've gotten a lot more serious. If we plan on eating brisket at 5PM, then at midnight or so the day before we're lighting the smoker. Also, though for awhile I wasn't the biggest fan of using the oven, as time goes on I'm realizing that the uniform heat and ease of use means that the oven is a really valid way to (partially) cook any BBQ, be it ribs, pork, or beef.
At this point, I'm begining to think about getting another smoker- i'm not the biggest fan of the offset style. I feel that the heat distribution is pretty uneven during smoking, and we have to shift around meat during cooking to keep everything from getting to hot on the surface! Additionally, I bought a cheapo Brinkmann offset smoker, and the damn thing is rusted to all hell and back only after two years. I'll admit I could take better care of it (it's sat uncovered in a rainstorm once or twice) but it's typcially covered well. On windy/cold days it can't generate enough heat to cook meat properly, and to top it all off, after about 12 hours of cooking, the damn firebox is so full of ash that there's not enough O2 flow to keep up the heat. I've had my eye on a weber smokey mountain for awhile; or something similar to it.
For those of you with the round tower style smoker, how have you liked it? Has it held up well? I'm not planning on buying another smoker after this one for awhile.