Where to start? Brown ale, porter, I.P.A., stout, bitter, mild… The list goes on.
First of all, What is ale? To me, coming from and living in Britain, ale should only be made from 4 ingredients; barley, water, hops and yeast. It should come hand pulled from a cask at cellar temperature, or from a bottle (preferably bottle conditioned.) I would not class lager as ale, especially the mass produced fizzy disco water variety, nor do I consider any of the excellent European white beers or fruit beers to be ales. They are all types of beer, but not types of ale.
Ale is broadly catagorised according to its colour and strength.
Pale ales, as the name suggests, are light in colour and body, with a hoppy bitter edge. They tend to be the weaker, refreshing, quaffing ales.
At the other extreme are the dark ales, with a rich, full bodied and nutty taste. These are generally stronger, more satisfying, winter warmer type ales. Although stout has a very dark colour it is very different from other dark ales, with a mild, bitter and creamy taste.
The brown ales are a compromise between these two ends of the ale spectrum. Providing the best of both worlds!
It is impossible to choose the best type of ale, as different ales suit different occasions. My chosen tipple will change depending on the weather or time of year, the company I am with, my mood or because of the establishment I am in, but it will always be a real ale.