The differences arise from the brewing process and yeast use in the fermentation.
Ales are brewed at higher temperature and with yeast that sits on the top of the ferment. Larger uses yeast that ferments at lower temperatures and usually at the bottom of the ferment vessel. Larger yeast also ferment more of the sugar so that they are not as sweet and not as flavoursome as Ales.
The ageing is also different. Whereas ale is only aged for a few weeks, a larger may be aged for a few months and creates a cleaner, clearer beer.
Ales are complex, flavorful beers. Many are served closer to room temperature and contain rich aroma and flavor. Their complexity makes pairing with food a more selective, but highly rewarding, task.
Bitter – Bitter belongs to the pale ale styleand can have a great variety of strength, flavour and appearance from dark amber to a golden summer ale. It can go under 3 – and as high as 7% with premium or strong bitters.
Brown ale – They range from deep amber to brown in colour. Caramel and chocolate flavours are evident. Brown ales from northeastern England tend to be strong and malty, often nutty, while those from southern England are usually darker, sweeter and lower in alcohol.
India Pale ale – Originally the term pale ale denoted brew with pale malt but to ship the beer to India in the 1800’s without refrigeration required the addition of more hops and a higher alcohol content. This produced a beer with a golden to amber colour. A good IPA will have a pleasantly, hoppy aroma. The flavor will be a slightly bitter hoppy flavour with plenty of balancing malty sweetness.
Pale ale – The higher proportion of pale malts results in a lighter colour. The term “pale ale” was being applied around 1703 for beers made from malts dried with coke, which resulted in a lighter colour than other beers popular at that time. Different brewing practices and hop levels have resulted in a range of taste and strength within the pale ale family.
Porter – Mod The name porter was first used in 1721 to describe a dark brown beer popular with street and river “porters”of London that had been made with roasted malts. Modern-day Porters are typically brewed using a pale malt base with the addition of black malt, crystal, chocolate or smoked brown malt. Some brewers will also age their beers after inoculation with live bacteria to create an authentic taste. Hop bitterness is moderate on the whole and colour ranges from brown to black. Overall they remain very complex and interesting beers.
Stout – A dark beer made using roasted malt or roasted barley, hops, water and yeast. Stouts were traditionally the generic term for the strongest or stoutest porters, typically 7% or 8% alcohol, produced by a brewery. They are very dark, almost black beers, and feature a heavily roasted flavor profile.
Wheat beer – Typically wheat beers contain 30-70% wheat malt and the remainder is regular barley malt. Though there are many different styles and sub-styles that can be called wheat beers they all share certain characteristics. Wheat has a lot more protein in it than barley which contributes to thick, long lasting heads. This protein also creates haze in most wheat beers. Wheat contributes very little flavor to a beer but it does contribute a distinctively silky mouthfeel. Wheat beers are highly effervescent and most are light in flavor, making them great summer beer
Lagers are clean, refreshing beers with typically light aroma and flavor. They are invariably served cold
Bock – Traditional bock is a sweet, relatively strong (6.3%–7.2% by volume), lightly hopped lager. The beer should be clear, and colour can range from light copper to brown, with a bountiful and persistent off-white head. The aroma should be malty and toasty, possibly with hints of alcohol, but no detectable hops or fruitiness. The mouthfeel is smooth, with low to moderate carbonation and no astringency. The taste is rich and toasty, sometimes with a bit of caramel. Again, hop presence is low to undetectable, providing just enough bitterness so that the sweetness is not cloying and the aftertaste is muted.
Dunkel – A dark lager German Beer. (Dunkel meaning dark). Typically range in colour from amber to dark reddish brown. They are characterized by their smooth malty flavour. Alcohol concentrations are 4.5% to 6% by volume. Dunkels are produced using Munich malts which give the Dunkel its colour. Other malts or flavours may also be added. Dunkels have a distinctive malty flavour that comes from a special brewing technique called decoction mashing.
Oktoberfest/Maerzen – Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content.
The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies’n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains roughly 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style.
Pilsner – Pilsner is one of the youngest beer styles in the world. It was originally brewed in Plzen, Czech in 1842 and was an immediate hit. The head is white and dense and the body is straw colored. The aroma should contain hops with a hint of graininess. The flavor is simple with light grain and hops bittering. The finish is clean and refreshing.