Differences will occur right across the spectrum in terms of production processes and specific flavour profiles, although all are defined by the mouth puckering sourness that is the hallmark taste of the category.
As a general guide, many of these beers will present as light to medium bodied in their nature, moderate to high in their amounts of carbonation, and often low to moderate in both their hop and malt profiles.
Where these beers really differentiate is in both the brewing techniques, including the particular yeast strains used or other additives required to induce the sourness found, and which strains and types of hops and malts, and their amounts, that are used in order to balance out and add flavour to the final brew.
For more on how these beers are brewed, consider this handy guide.
When examining this style, many sour ales are grouped under other categories of ale, such as Berliner weisse under wheat ales, however, the most prominent sub-styles that exist outside of other more fitting categories include:
American sour ales are another sub-style of sour ale that are incredibly tough to place under one simple guideline or flavour profile.
They can vary immensely from dark and roasty to light and hazy golden in their appearance, and they can also be highly variable in their bitterness and levels of alcohol.
That being said, the most defining feature of American sour ales is the moderate to intense presence of tart acidity or sourness, which makes them highly refreshing and a definite palate cleanser, even though they're often considered heavier in their body than many other examples of sour ales.
Generally speaking, the hop and malt profiles of these beers are kept to moderate levels, meaning the sourness or other funky flavours present in these beers are able to really shine through.
When looking to pair food with American sour ales, the palate cleansing and highly refreshing levels of acidity found in them means they are often best served alongside strongly flavoured foods, including strong cheeses or heavily sauced meat dishes.