Classes are back in session at the University of Minnesota, which means two things: Students have returned, and so has the bar business. While the U is home to a plethora of drinking spots, the scene is usually unchanging and a bit dumpy. But there have been some shake-ups in recent years.

One longtime institution, Grandma's Saloon, closed this year. But on the positive side, the Varsity Theater continues to be a dominant destination for live shows. And while college students are known for their beer lust, the U has never had a serious beer bar (and one with good beer). With the rejuvenated Stub & Herb's and the relocated Acadia Cafe, it now has two.

These venues -- where a savory experience is more important than getting smashed -- show us that a college bar doesn't always have to be a college bar. That said, here are 10, traditional and nontraditional, that matter.

Stub & Herb's

Stub and Herb's
Staff photos
  • The scene: When new owners took over last year, they let head bartender and beer geek Jon Landers run wild. He has transformed the once ramshackle place into a great beer bar. To stick out, Landers keeps the draft selection all-American -- showing that this country's craft beer landscape can stand on its own.
  • Who's drinking: Beer lovers, graduate students.
  • Best special: $3.50 pints during one long daily happy hour, 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. (plus 10 p.m.-midnight).
  • View the full venue listing

Varsity Theater

Varsity Theater
Staff photos

Acadia Cafe

Acadia Cafe
Staff photos
  • The scene: New to the corner of Cedar and Riverside, this transplant (from the corner of Nicollet and Franklin) gives students what they've been missing: a serious venue for singer-songwriters and an even more serious place for beer fans (28 taps and an impressive bottle list).
  • Who's drinking: Boho musicians, beer connoisseurs.
  • Best special: Different beer specials Sun.-Thu.
  • View the full venue listing

The Library

The Library
Staff photos
  • The scene: When people say "college bar," this is what they're talking about. Three levels of hardcore partying. Almost 40 flat-screen TVs. One sardonic name.
  • Who's drinking: Party animals of the fratty type.
  • Best special: $1 drinks every night, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Sun.-Thu. and 9 p.m. -midnight Fri.-Sat. Selection varies.
  • View the full venue listing

Nomad World Pub

Nomad World Pub
Staff photos
  • The scene: The Nomad is quickly becoming known as the bar that will try anything. The hip spot has outdoor bocce ball, dog parties, science trivia and, coming this winter, curling. It also has great live music.
  • Who's drinking: Cool people willing to try anything.
  • Best special: Two-for-ones on everything during happy hour, 4-7 p.m. Mon-Fri.
  • View the full venue listing

Sally's Saloon

  • The scene: This longtime party spot still packs 'em in for ladies night on Wednesdays and "Kill the Keg" on Thursdays.
  • Who's drinking: Students who like college bars.
  • Best special: For the fall semester it's $2 Jag bombs and two-for-ones (10 p.m.-midnight) daily.
  • View the full venue listing

Preston's Urban Pub

  • The scene: While the patio will always be popular, the insides of this Seven Corners staple needed some work. New owner Mark Habben did just that with a remodel and a slight name change (no more Sgt. Preston's).
  • Who's drinking: A straight-up college crowd.
  • Best special: The bar's famous 60-ounce fish bowls are half-off on Fridays. And how about 50-cent Bud Light taps on Mondays?
  • View the full venue listing

Town Hall Brewery

  • The scene: Students looking for a standout brewpub have one right under their noses. Later this month (Oct. 20-25), the bar celebrates its 11th anniversary with a week of beer releases.
  • Who's drinking: Beer geeks.
  • Best special: $1 off house beers during daily happy hour 3-6:30 p.m.
  • View the full venue listing

Kitty Cat Klub

Kitty Cab Klub
Staff photos
  • The scene: With its abundance of plush vintage couches, this is the comfiest bar around. It sounds good, too, with live music every night.
  • Who's drinking: Hipsters who know a good couch when they see one.
  • Best special: $2 beers and wine, $3 cocktails during daily happy hour 4-7 p.m.
  • View the full venue listing

The Dinkytowner

The Dinkytowner
Staff photos
  • The scene: This shabby little bar is still a home for the local underground music scene. While it's heavy on hip-hop (Kanser has another Halloween special this year), there are plenty of rock and punk shows, too.
  • Who's drinking: Independent music fans.
  • Best special: Women drink free during ladies night Mondays. Wednesdays: $5 pitchers and $2 shots.
  • View the full venue listing