Beer and Soup

This is what it’s like to be a nerd. As a computer-geek, my friends tend to think I have a lot of “answers” about computers. In reality, I spend more time making up problems than I do solving them.

For some unknown reason I decided I wanted to extract all of the beer style data from BreweryDB and create a nice portable concept map I could use in iThoughts. As this pointless project unfolded, so did the scope. The result of a few days of work is this Python script that accepts a generic XML and outputs an OPML file suitable for import into iThoughts, MindNode or even OmniOutliner.

In theory, the important part of this experiment was learning a bit more about working with XML in Python. I learned that lxml is very powerful and poorly documented.1 I also learned that the BeautifulSoup package for Python has some handy methods for modifying XML (most of my experience with it was parsing HTML).2

Here’s the script:


from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

# Start making the soup
soup = BeautifulSoup(open('/Users/weatherh/Documents/beerStyles.xml'), "lxml")

# Walk through each element in the XML by first using FindAll. Then we need to change their
# names and fix some nesting
head_tag = soup.root
for child in soup.findAll():
    # Take the original name of the element and assign it to a text attribute for the OPML
    child['text'] =
    # Change the element name to 'outline' so it's visible in the OPML as a node. = "outline"
    if child.string and len(child.string) > 0:
        # If an element has text, then we create a new child 'outline' element with a 'text'
        # attribute containing the text. Otherwise it's not visible as a node in the concept
        # map.
        newChild = soup.new_tag("outline")
        newChild['text'] = child.string
        # Destroy the original text string
        # add the fully formed child to the parent (like an adult adoption)

# Need to first wrap everything in an 'OPML' tag. The new_tag function can also create an
# attribute named 'version'.
wrapper = soup.new_tag('opml', **{'version':"1.0"})

# Create a 'title' tag that is the central node of the map
newHead = soup.new_tag("title")
newHead.string = "BDB Beer Styles"
# Insert the title node before the first 'outline' node in our map
# Create a head node around the 'title' node
titleWrapper = soup.new_tag("head")

# Slip in the body tag around the inner outline tag
bodyWrapper = soup.new_tag('body')

# Write it all back to a file
xmlResult = soup.prettify("utf-8")
with open("/Users/weatherh/Documents/beerStylesUpdated.opml", "wb") as file:

I think it’s reasonably well documented, even if it’s not very good Python. The resulting file can be opened directly in iThoughts.

iThoughts Raw OPML

I deleted a few root nodes and applied a custom style template in iThoughts to get something rather nice looking.

While this script was created specifically to deal with parsing the XML response from the BreweryDB API, I attempted to make it generic. It should work for most XML and should provide at least a start to converting it to OPML. I’ve tried it on the HTML source of a few webpages and it produced a concept map of the DOM. Pretty neat.

I guess I succeeded in my goal. I now have a pocket-sized concept map of beer styles.

Beer Map on an iPhone

It’s not super-useful. But, then again, this was never about the problem. It was always about the problem solving.

  1. I found the examples here and here to be very good. ↩︎

  2. Credit to and ↩︎