If you visit the Ugly Mug for pre-game happy hour, you can get a free ride to the park courtesy of the bar’s Mug Bug. (2009 photo by James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

The Ugly Mug became a Nationals bar by luck of geography. When it opened in 2004, the Barracks Row sports bar was known for its miniburgers – created by the chef behind Matchbox’s original menu – and a surfeit of TV screens, which was rare at Barracks Row at the time. But once the Nationals moved into the neighborhood, the Mug took advantage of the proximity.

Pre- and post-game parties with drink specials have always been a staple. In the early days, they were a stop on a Miller-sponsored party bus to Nationals Park. Then the bar began offering free rides to and from games aboard its “Mug Bug” golf cart. (It’s only about a mile from the stadium gates to the bar.) These sorts of gestures helped solidify the Ugly Mug’s status as a Nats bar well before there were any options close to the park.

They’ve continued to attract fans throughout the seasons by offering their baseball specials — $4 Blue Moon and Miller Lite pints, $12 Miller Lite pitchers — during all games, not just when the Nationals are at home. This means you’re likely to see at least a few curly W caps sipping one of the 24 beers and slicing into stromboli and pizza, even when the team’s on the road.

I still do a double-take when I’m in the bar before the game and see a framed Curt Schilling Red Sox jersey hanging across from a Nationals pennant signed by Ryan Zimmerman, but the Ugly Mug has done a great job fostering support and enthusiasm among Nationals fans.

Read more from the Going Out Guide:

Pre- and post-game happy hours near Nationals Park

Take a ‘cortisone’ shot for the Nationals

Eating and drinking at Nationals Park