For me, the best plan would be to try to find a 3.5% mild recipe or something. If I could make a full bodied, good tasting 3.5% beer, that's really all I want.
I've been on a similar quest recently. I think the key is to keep the sparge runnings high in gravity (or do a no-sparge mash), mash for moderate-to-low attenuation, and use a yeast that will contribute a lot of esters. I have a split batch of 3.6% ABV blondes on tap right now (one with English yeast, the other Belgian) and it's great. My 7.5% IPA feels thinner.
Here's what I was thinking.
4 lbs MO, 1/2 to 3/4 lb C40, 1 to 2 oz of Black Patent Malt added at the end of the mash.
Keep the mash temp high (156 - 158) and mash in with 25 quarts of water which should give me about 20-21 quarts pre-boil. Do a small sparge to get another 6-8 quarts (or just do 32 quarts at the start). I like to have about 28 quarts pre-boil and I usually finish around 20 with a bit left in the hop pellets etc at the bottom of the brew kettle.
1 oz Northern Brewer 7.8% at 60
1/2 oz East Kent Goldings at 15
1/2 oz East Kent Golding at flameout.
What I'm wondering though, would it be worthwhile to add some thing like rolled oats to the grain bill? I'm thinking Oatmeal Stout and the body that the ones I've had seem to have. My fear is that if I back off the grain bill so much for 5 gals, it's gonna get pretty thin.
My yeast is going to be Wyeast London III because that's what I'll have washed and ready for a starter next.
This may be better in another thread. I'm hijacking my own thread here...