Ale has been brewed in one form or another for thousands of years all over the planet, and especially in the western world has been part of society for just as long. Fermented using top fermenting yeast, ale originally was brewed with just malt; the addition of hops to recipes appeared later to balance flavours out, and also cover the taste of spoilage.
There are numerous varieties of ale, as each producing region of the world has it's own recipes and traditions of brewing. Pale ale, golden ale, brown ale, India pale ale (IPA) and so on all display similarities yet the tastes are completely different. And whatever your tastes may be, there is sure to be a style to suit them.